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Affluent and Black and Still Trapped by Segregation

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Everyone at some point in their life has to move, it can either be for university or for work-related purposes. There are many elements a person considers when it comes to deciding where they would want to rent/buy a house. These elements could be the closeness to their work building, the rate of crime, the price of the house, or even the education of their children. This often leads to the concept of racial segregation, from employment, to marriage, to residential segregation. The residential segregation, in particular, consists in a social phenomena. This phenomenon illustrates the concept of spatial separation of two (or more) different ethnic groups, inside a specific geographic area (such as a city or a town). In the past century, this phenomena was researched very much, in order to understand how it influences the society we live in. This essay will focus on critically examining the perspective offered by Schelling’s model of residential segregation. It will also analyze Milton Friedman’s methodological viewpoint about the reality of assumption, and how it can be applied towards Schelling’s agent-based computational model. It will also provide other experts’ (David R. Harris’s, Steve Bruce, William A. V. Clark and Mark Fossett) points of view regarding the matter, and also, to help the reader understand better the social phenomena. Since people choose their neighborhood that best fits their needs, and rarely they choose it based solely on one factor, like ethnicity or race. Hence, the purpose of the essay is to argue that residential segregation does exist, but it should not be viewed as a social issue.

The American economist professor Thomas Schelling was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2005 for The Strategy of Conflict, in which he discusses the issue with residential segregation. In his theory, he analyzes how the individual tendency to choose a neighborhood can lead to residential segregation. It’s important to point out that the Schelling model was published in 1969. The 60s were for the United States of America a time full of social changes. During this time a man named Martin Luther King, Junior made an everlasting impact to society with his I have a Dream speech, and also became the leader of the civil rights movement that fought to eliminate the black segregation movement in the United States. Thus, due to the time period in which Schelling lived in, the reader understands why the professor, in his model, decided to focus only on the residential segregation that occurs between black and white people.

In order to explain his theory, Schelling placed pennies and dimes in a different pattern on a board; the pennies and dimes both represented different individuals. He would then let them be free to move wherever they desired, based upon their own happiness. Anyone who would relocate would gain neighbors, like himself, but would also create the opposite color to the unlike neighbors he acquires. With this model, Schelling proved how there would be an inevitable chain of reaction, every time someone would relocate; since they would affect not only their new environment but also the other environment they are leaving behind. Schelling points out, “Everybody who selects a new environment affects the environments of those he leaves and those he moves among. There is a chain of reaction” (Schelling, 1969: 150). This would often lead to separation. The model demonstrates that an individual’s choice of any type (such as ethnicity, race or income) would become part of a wider phenomena. However, since this process is so vast, one can see how hard it is to distinguish organized segregation from undirected individual choice. With this in mind, the reader should wonder if the phenomena should be considered segregation or aggregation. It’s important to understand that, the pennies don’t necessarily move because they dislike the dimes. There are many factors that could influence an individual’s choice. Thus, making it hard to determine which exact motivation regulates the instruction and the process of residential segregation.

(The )Professor David R. Harris at the University of Michigan in American Sociological Review highlights that there is a clear difference between discrimination and racial proxies due to their different implications for integration policy. Harris writes,“(. . .)between pure discrimination and racial proxies because the two have distinct implications for integration policy” (Harris, 1999: 462). Harris’s study (1999) tries to show that if pennies avoid dimes because of their silver color, then stable integration is unlikely to happen. Whereas, if pennies avoid dimes because of their characteristics associated with being silver, then stable integration is most likely to occur. In order to prove his point, Harris (1999) first considers the actual race factor. Then he asses several factors that are not related to actual ethnicity, but the percentage of people that don’t have college degrees, unemployment, and poverty. The hedonic price analysis makes the Professor Harris arrived to(or at/in) the conclusion that in less integrated areas people prefer to live among well-educated individuals; which tends to be more popular with Caucasian individuals. Harris writes,“(. . .)housing is more valuable in less integrated neighborhoods largely because people prefer well-educated, affluent neighbors, and each of traits is more prevalent among whites than among blacks” (Harris, 1999: 472). Therefore, the choice an individual makes when living in a neighborhood is not affected by the race factor, but more likely by the socio-economic factors.

Given the following information, the reader can understand that the term “segregation” is somewhat incorrect. The separation is not enforced by anyone or by any specific racial group. Humans have always been ethnocentric, they tend to find like-minded individuals that share their same culture, race, and income. Nevertheless, people tend to surround themselves by people who share their same culture, race, and income; these factors are not necessarily connected to racial segregation. Like Harris has proved, race is not a real factor an individual actually looks at.

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Additionality as analyzed by the international sociologist of religion Steve Bruce in his book Sociology: a very short introduction, the school environment plays a really crucial role for a child when it comes to determining what kind of person they will become. The sociologist observed that schools that were found in middle-class districts tended to have better teachers, great academic scores, and a great discipline was taught there for the children that went there. He wrote, “School in middle-class area tend to attract better teachers and gain reputations for good discipline and good exam results” (Bruce, 1999: 43). This demonstrates how what kind of education one might receive based upon where they live. For example, it is not a coincidence, that the best primary school in London, according to the website London Pre-Pre, are located in the most expensive area of the city, such as Chelsea and Kensington. Therefore, the reader should have now understood that, on choosing where to live, there are factors that matter more than just the ethnicity of the district; showing once again why this the phenomena should not be seen as racial discrimination.

The American economist professor Thomas Schelling used his model of segregation to try and understand how individual preferences could lead to residential segregation. However, the model that Schelling used was a bit flawed. When Schelling looked into individual preferences deeper, he only focused on the race; and paid less attention to the social and economic factors within the neighborhoods. Schelling writes,“(. . .)preference have complex origins and emerge from the social psychology, group dynamics, and history of racial and ethnic relations” (cited in Clark & Fossett, 2008: 4109). Therefore, this may make the reader question the validity of Schelling’s model. In fact, the American economist Milton Friedman believed that a theory is more believable when it can be applied to a larger audience. Friedman states, “(. . . )it is a part of a more general theory that applies to a wider variety of phenomena” (cited in Michael & Lee C: 655). Hence, if one considers Friedman’s idea of considering the validation of a hypothesis and apply it to the Schelling model, the reader can understand that the residential segregation does exist. However, it doesn’t mean that the racial segregation always has to do with the race or ethnicity of a person, but simply the preferences of an individual. The individual would prefer living with people who share similar group identities and culture.

In addition to, The American economist Milton Friedman believes that the absolute goal of a great theory or hypothesis is that its predictions are not only legitimate but that it can most likely happen. Friedman states, “The ultimate goal of a positive science is the development of a ‘theory’ or ‘hypothesis’ that yields valid and meaningful predictions about phenomena not yet observed” (cited in Michael & Lee C, 1994: 649). In order for a hypothesis or theory to be considered accurate, it has to follow specific criteria that helps(?) showcase its’ actual validity. Friedman also argued that the only way to see if a hypothesis is legitimate, is by comparing its prediction with the actual experience, the evidence. Friedman says, “The hypothesis is rejected if its prediction are contradicted; it is accepted if its predictions are not contradicted.” (cited in Michael & Lee C, 1994: 650). Referring to Schelling’s model, his hypothesis that the individual’s preferences can lead to segregation is accepted since the prediction are not contradicted. However, the model has some loopholes because in Schelling’s hypothesis, he believes that an individual’s choice is related to only one factor (ethnicity) without looking into other parts of the entire background of the person. Thus, the reader by looking at all the elements in which they can influence the decision of where to move, Schelling’s model would be rejected since his prediction would be contradicted by all the other factors present.

Furthermore, William A. V. Clark a professor at UCLA and Mark Fossett the Sociology professor wrote in their article Understanding the social context of the Schelling segregation model their conclusion about Schelling’s model. They analyze how his model is clearly not stable, due to the fact that he only focuses on one element, in this case he talks about the ethnicity of the people, without taking under consideration any of the other factors. The hypothesis is that white people don’t live in neighborhoods with black people because they’re black. This is considered false since this does not really affect the choice that an individual makes when it comes to deciding where they should live. Whereas on the other hand, Schelling’s hypothesis in which the individual’s choice does not affect the bigger picture is “confirmed” by his data. The prediction in one hand cannot be proved, however at the same time it cannot be disproved, and this, as Friedman stated, means that it does have valid predictions. Therefore Schelling’s model *

In conclusion to, residential segregation does exist, but it should not be viewed as a social issue. Persay the reader looks at the map of a big city, like Detroit, which is clearly divided by the 8-mile road. It is evident to the reader that residential segregation exists. Like Schelling demonstrated in his model, even if an individual may call themselves tolerant, in the end, the choice of neighbors isn’t up to him. Since Schelling stated that it is not a choice made by an individual, but by the neighborhood community itself. In order to find an environment that will satisfy everyone, residential segregation must exist. He wrote, “Thus it is not the case that ‘greater tolerance’ always increases the likelihood of a stable mixture—not if ‘greater tol­erance’ means only that within a given population some mem­bers are statistically replaced by others more tolerant. On the contrary, replacing the two-thirds least tolerant whites (. . .) by even less tolerant whites keeps the whites from overwhelming the blacks by their numbers” (Schelling; 1969: 163). If the residential segregation is not organized, then the result of residential segregation would be viewed as the undirected individual choice. Thus, the decision of creating a segregated neighborhood is not made on racial or ethnicity issues; but it is the consequence of a range of different factors that play into making up the group of people found in the community. Therefore, residential segregation should not be seen as a social issue.

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Affluent and Black and Still Trapped by Segregation. (2022, November 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 25, 2023, from
“Affluent and Black and Still Trapped by Segregation.” Edubirdie, 25 Nov. 2022,
Affluent and Black and Still Trapped by Segregation. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 May 2023].
Affluent and Black and Still Trapped by Segregation [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Nov 25 [cited 2023 May 25]. Available from:
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