Including Preference and Social Distance Dynamics in Multi-Factor Theories of Segregation Academic Article uri icon


  • All agree that many factors contribute to ethnic segregation, but controversy continues regarding the relevance of particular factors. In my paper I acknowledge the importance of discrimination, but I direct attention to the role of ethnic preferences and social distance dynamics. I do so because many dismiss the relevance of these factors for contemporary segregation without engaging formal theories and analytic models which suggest that dynamics associated with in-group attraction and out-group avoidance may take on increasing importance as past forms of discrimination slowly fade. Agent-based modeling shows promise for exploring the issue of whether prejudice against out-groups and affinity toward in-groups can build and sustain segregation in the absence of discrimination. Research drawing on this approach is at an early stage of development but is significant for highlighting two things. One is that the implications of preferences for segregation are strongly conditioned by the ethnic demography of the city. Another, closely tied to the first, is that different views about the implications of preferences for segregation often hinge on inconsistencies in how notions of integration and segregation are applied in discussions of individual location choices, the ethnic mix of single neighborhoods, and the ethnic distributions for all neighborhoods in a city. Critiques of agent-based models of Schelling-style preference effects will carry more force when they outline models indicating how location decisions guided by preferences documented in surveys can produce or sustain integration.

published proceedings

  • Journal of Mathematical Sociology

author list (cited authors)


citation count

  • 23

complete list of authors


publication date

  • January 2006