Racial Blind Spots: A Barrier to Integrated Communities in Chicago

Maria Krysan, Institute of Government & Public Affairs, July 2008, available here

“Regardless of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which banned discrimination on the basis of race/ethnicity in the sale and rental of housing, now 40 years later, patterns of housing segregation in the Chicago metropolitan area have changed little.  Despite being illegal, discrimination in housing persists, albeit somewhat less frequently and often in more subtle ways than in the past (e.g., Turner et al, 2002).  But discrimination is just one of the barriers to housing integration.  In this report, we draw attention to another: racial “blind spots” in community knowledge.  In particular, we explore whether there are substantial racial/ethnic differences in the communities that people know about, and, further, whether the racial/ethnic composition of a community importantly shapes whether a person knows about a community.  If community knowledge is patterned in this way, these “blind spots” may be a mechanism through which housing segregation is perpetuated.  That is, knowledge of a community is most surely a precursor to a successful move to a particular community.  To take one example, if racially integrated communities are only well-known among a certain racial/ethnic group, then its prospects for maintaining that integration are uncertain.”

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