Declining segregation through the lens of neighborhood quality: does middle-class and affluent status bring equality?

Soc Sci Res. 2014 Jul:46:155-68. doi: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2014.03.003. Epub 2014 Mar 20.


Middle- and upper-class status along with suburban residence are together considered symbolic of the American dream. However, the question of whether they mean access to better quality residential environments has gone largely unexplored. This study relies on data from the 2009 panel of the American Housing Survey and focuses on a range of neighborhood conditions, including indicators of physical and social disorder as well as housing value and a neighborhood rating. Contrary to the tenets of the spatial assimilation model, we find that middle-class and affluent status do not consistently lead to superior conditions for all households. Neighborhood circumstances vary considerably based on householder race and ethnicity, with blacks and Hispanics experiencing the greatest disparities from whites. In addition, suburban residence does not attenuate such differences, and in some cases, well-to-do minorities do even worse than whites in neighborhood quality in suburbs.

Keywords: Affluence; Neighborhood quality; Race/ethnicity; Residential segregation; Suburbs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Black or African American*
  • Ethnicity
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino*
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Income*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minority Groups
  • Racism*
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Social Class*
  • Social Environment
  • White People*