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The Shortest Path Isolation Index: A New Measure for Individual-level Residential Segregation


  • Ross W. Fineman


The study of segregation is essential for understanding how place influences life outcomes. Traditional segregation indices rely heavily on the use of areal units for calculation, which risks introducing both measurement and interpretation error. Using individual-level data avoids many of the problems facing traditional area-level indices. However, few segregation indices currently exist that are capable of utilizing such data. Given that our understanding is only as good as our measurement, it is imperative that our measures accurately reflect our perceptions of segregation. Utilizing the recent release of the complete 1940 Census count data, this article details a new individual-level segregation measure—the shortest path isolation (SPI) index. The SPI index captures the degree of racial isolation experienced by an individual, regarding both distance and interpersonal contact. With West Philadelphia as a sample study area, this article highlights the benefits of the SPI index for studying segregation at the individual level.

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  • Ross W. Fineman, 2020. "The Shortest Path Isolation Index: A New Measure for Individual-level Residential Segregation," Sociological Methods & Research, , vol. 49(3), pages 742-777, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:somere:v:49:y:2020:i:3:p:742-777
    DOI: 10.1177/0049124118769097

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Daniel Lichter & Domenico Parisi & Steven Grice & Michael Taquino, 2007. "National estimates of racial segregation in rural and small-town America," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 44(3), pages 563-581, August.
    2. Malia Jones & Anne Pebley, 2014. "Redefining Neighborhoods Using Common Destinations: Social Characteristics of Activity Spaces and Home Census Tracts Compared," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 51(3), pages 727-752, June.
    3. Flowerdew, Robin & Manley, David J. & Sabel, Clive E., 2008. "Neighbourhood effects on health: Does it matter where you draw the boundaries?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(6), pages 1241-1255, March.
    4. Gift Dumedah & Nadine Schuurman & Wanhong Yang, 2008. "Minimizing effects of scale distortion for spatially grouped census data using rough sets," Journal of Geographical Systems, Springer, vol. 10(1), pages 47-69, March.
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