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The Rise and Decline of the American Ghetto

  • David M. Cutler
  • Edward L. Glaeser
  • Jacob L. Vigdor

This paper examines segregation in American cities from 1890 to 1990. From 1890 to 1940, ghettos were born as blacks migrated to urban areas and cities developed vast expanses filled with almost entirely black housing. From 1940 to 1970, black migration continued and the physical areas of the ghettos expanded. Since 1970, there has been a decline in segregation as blacks have moved into previously allâ€white areas of cities and suburbs. Across all these time periods there is a strong positive relation between urban population or density and segregation. Data on house prices and attitudes toward integration suggest that in the midâ€twentieth century, segregation was a product of collective actions taken by whites to exclude blacks from their neighborhoods. By 1990, the legal barriers enforcing segregation had been replaced by decentralized racism, where whites pay more than blacks to live in predominantly white areas.

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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Political Economy.

Volume (Year): 107 (1999)
Issue (Month): 3 (June)
Pages: 455-506

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:107:y:1999:i:3:p:455-506
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  1. Katherine M. O'Regan & John M. Quigley, 1996. "Teenage Employment and the Spatial Isolation of Minority and Poverty Households," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(3), pages 692-702.
  2. Goodman, John Jr. & Ittner, John B., 1992. "The accuracy of home owners' estimates of house value," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(4), pages 339-357, December.
  3. Edward P. Lazear, 1995. "Culture and Language," NBER Working Papers 5249, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Smith, James P & Welch, Finis R, 1989. "Black Economic Progress after Myrdal," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 27(2), pages 519-64, June.
  5. Borjas, George J, 1995. "Ethnicity, Neighborhoods, and Human-Capital Externalities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 365-90, June.
  6. Cutler, David M & Glaeser, Edward L, 1997. "Are Ghettos Good or Bad?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(3), pages 827-72, August.
  7. Anne C. Case & Lawrence F. Katz, 1991. "The Company You Keep: The Effects of Family and Neighborhood on Disadvantaged Youths," NBER Working Papers 3705, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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