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An Equilibrium Model of Sorting in an Urban Housing Market: A Study of the Causes and Consequences of Residential Segregation

  • Patrick Bayer
  • Robert McMillan
  • Kim Rueben

This paper presents a new equilibrium framework for analyzing economic and policy questions related to the sorting of households within a large metropolitan area. At its heart is a model describing the residential location choices of households that makes explicit the way that individual decisions aggregate to form a housing market equilibrium. The model incorporates choice-specific unobservables, and in the presence of these, a general strategy is provided for identifying household preferences over choice characteristics, including those that depend on household sorting such as neighborhood racial composition. We estimate the model using restricted access Census data that characterize the precise residential and employment locations of a quarter of a million households in the San Francisco Bay Area, yielding accurate measures of references for a wide variety of housing and neighborhood attributes across different types of household. The main economic analysis of the paper uses these estimates in combination with the equilibrium model to explore the causes and consequences of racial segregation in the housing market. Our results indicate that, given the preference structure of households in the Bay Area, the elimination of racial differences in income and wealth would significantly increase the residential segregation of each major racial group. Given the relatively small fractions of Asian, Black, and Hispanic households in the Bay Area (each ~10%), the elimination of racial differences in income/wealth (or, education or employment geography) spreads households in these racial groups much more evenly across the income distribution, allowing more racial sorting to occur at all points in the distribution – e.g., leading to the formation of wealthy, segregated Black and Hispanic neighborhoods. The partial equilibrium predictions of the model, which do not account for the fact that neighborhood sociodemographic compositions and prices adjust as part of moving to a new equilibrium, lead to the opposite conclusion, emphasizing the value of the general equilibrium approach developed in the paper. Our analysis also provides evidence sorting on the basis of race itself (whether driven by preferences directly or discrimination) leads to large reductions in the consumption of public safety and school quality by all Black and Hispanic households, and large reductions in the housing consumption of upper-income Black and Hispanic households.

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Paper provided by Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau in its series Working Papers with number 03-01.

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Date of creation: Jan 2003
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Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:03-01
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  8. Benabou, Roland, 1996. "Heterogeneity, Stratification, and Growth: Macroeconomic Implications of Community Structure and School Finance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 584-609, June.
  9. Fernandez, Raquel & Rogerson, Richard, 1996. "Income Distribution, Communities, and the Quality of Public Education," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(1), pages 135-64, February.
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  12. George J. Borjas, 1994. "Ethnicity, Neighborhoods, and Human Capital Externalities," NBER Working Papers 4912, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  18. Rosen, Sherwin, 1974. "Hedonic Prices and Implicit Markets: Product Differentiation in Pure Competition," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(1), pages 34-55, Jan.-Feb..
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  20. Patrick Bajari & Matthew E. Kahn, . "Why Do Blacks Live in The Cities and Whites Live in the Suburbs?," Working Papers 00007, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
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  22. Epple, Dennis & Filimon, Radu & Romer, Thomas, 1993. "Existence of voting and housing equilibrium in a system of communities with property taxes," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(5), pages 585-610, November.
  23. Steven T. Berry, 1994. "Estimating Discrete-Choice Models of Product Differentiation," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 25(2), pages 242-262, Summer.
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  25. Epple, Dennis, 1987. "Hedonic Prices and Implicit Markets: Estimating Demand and Supply Functions for Differentiated Products," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(1), pages 59-80, February.
  26. Berry, Steven & Levinsohn, James & Pakes, Ariel, 1995. "Automobile Prices in Market Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(4), pages 841-90, July.
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