A chance to break housing segregation patterns

Metropolitan Chicago's Black-white segregation is among the worst in the nation and has improved only modestly in the past three decades. A 2017 Metropolitan Planning Council study put the price tag of segregation at $8 billion annually. To see how this moment might create an opportunity for breaking down segregation, we need to understand what created and sustains segregation.

As Kyle Crowder of the University of Washington and I argue in our book, "Cycle of Segregation," segregation is perpetuated in part because our social networks and daily experiences and the media shape the mental maps we have about where we should and should not live. And they affect whether we've even heard of a place.

Based on these mental maps, when looking to move, we often eliminate entire swaths of the Chicago metropolitan area based on a lack of knowledge (something we refer to as racial blind spots) or assumptions based on one piece of information that we use to stand in for a lot of other features. For white people, that bit of information is often a community's racial composition. In a segregated region like ours, these mental maps—themselves a product of segregation—end up funneling us, when we decide to move, into places that are segregated.

Of course, segregation is not just about individual homeowner decisions. Government actions like affordable mortgages and new highways influenced options and facilitated the initial growth of suburbs decades ago. But policies and practices like redlining, racially restrictive covenants and land contract sales barred Black people from this movement and denied them the wealth accumulation that came from homeownership that white families were afforded.

A chance to break housing segregation patterns, Maria Krysan, Chicago Business, Dec. 17, 2020, available here

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