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On the Measurement of Segregation

  • Federico Echenique

    (California Institute of Technology)

  • Roland G. Fryer Jr.

    (Harvard University Society of Fellows, & NBER)

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://econwpa.repec.org/eps/lab/papers/0503/0503006.pdf
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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Labor and Demography with number 0503006.

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Length: 67 pages
Date of creation: 31 Mar 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpla:0503006
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 67
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://econwpa.repec.org

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  1. Oscar Volij & David Frankel, 2004. "Measuring Segregation," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 210, Econometric Society.
  2. Philipson Tomas, 1993. "Social Welfare and Measurement of Segregation," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 322-334, August.
  3. 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.
  4. 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..
  5. 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.
  6. Volij, Oscar & Palacios-Huerta, Ignacio, 2004. "The Measurment of Intellectual Influence," Staff General Research Papers 10797, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  7. Jonathan Guryan, 2004. "Desegregation and Black Dropout Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 919-943, September.
  8. Edward P. Lazear, 1999. "Culture and Language," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages S95-S126, December.
  9. George J. Borjas, 1994. "Ethnicity, Neighborhoods, and Human Capital Externalities," NBER Working Papers 4912, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2004. "The Causes and Consequences of Distinctively Black Names," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(3), pages 767-805, August.
  11. Cutler, David & Vigdor, Jacob & Glaeser, Edward, 1999. "The Rise and Decline of the American Ghetto," Scholarly Articles 2770033, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Hutchens, Robert, 2001. "Numerical measures of segregation: desirable properties and their implications," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 13-29, July.
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