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On the Measurement of Segregation

  • Federico Echenique
  • Roland G. Fryer, Jr.

This paper develops a measure of segregation based on two premises: (1) a measure of segregation should disaggregate to the level of individuals, and (2) an individual is more segregated the more segregated are the agents with whom she interacts. Developing three desirable axioms that any segregation measure should satisfy, we prove that one and only one segregation index satisfies our three axioms, and the two aims mentioned above; which we coin the Spectral Segregation Index. We apply the index to two well-studied social phenomena: residential and school segregation. We calculate the extent of residential segregation across major US cities using data from the 2000 US Census. The correlation between the Spectral index and the commonly-used dissimilarity index is .42. Using detailed data on friendship networks, available in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we calculate the prevalence of within-school racial segregation. The results suggests that the percent of minority students within a school, commonly used as a substitute for a measure of in-school segregation, is a poor proxy for social interactions.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11258.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11258.

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Date of creation: Apr 2005
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11258
Note: ED LS
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  1. Edward P. Lazear, 1995. "Culture and Language," NBER Working Papers 5249, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2003. "The Causes and Consequences of Distinctively Black Names," NBER Working Papers 9938, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Ignacio Palacios-Huerta & Oscar Volij, 2002. "The Measurement of Intellectual Influence," Economic theory and game theory 015, Oscar Volij.
  4. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jacob L. Vigdor, 1999. "The Rise and Decline of the American Ghetto," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(3), pages 455-506, June.
  5. Lawrence Katz & B. Jeffrey Liebman, 2000. "Moving to Opportunity in Boston: Early Results of a Randomized Mobility Experiment," Working Papers 820, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  6. Jan K. Brueckner & Oleg Smirnov, 2007. "Workings Of The Melting Pot: Social Networks And The Evolution Of Population Attributes," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(2), pages 209-228, 05.
  7. Jeffrey R Kling & Jeffrey B Liebman & Lawrence F Katz, 2007. "Experimental Analysis of Neighborhood Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(1), pages 83-119, 01.
  8. David M. Frankel & Oscar Volij, 2007. "Measuring Segregation," Working Papers 0703, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Department of Economics.
  9. George J. Borjas, 1994. "Ethnicity, Neighborhoods, and Human Capital Externalities," NBER Working Papers 4912, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser, 1995. "Are Ghettos Good or Bad?," NBER Working Papers 5163, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Hutchens, Robert, 2001. "Numerical measures of segregation: desirable properties and their implications," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 13-29, July.
  12. Jonathan Guryan, 2001. "Desegregation and Black Dropout Rates," NBER Working Papers 8345, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Philipson Tomas, 1993. "Social Welfare and Measurement of Segregation," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 322-334, August.
  14. Case, A.C. & Katz, L.F., 1991. "The Company You Keep: The Effects Of Family And Neighborhood On Disadvantaged Younths," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1555, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
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