Donald R. Davis, Jonathan Dingel, Joan Monras, Eduardo Morales, 24 October 2017

Smart devices and online activity generate a stream of data describing human behaviour in great detail. Social scientists can tap such data to examine previously unexplored topics. This column uses online restaurant reviews to measure consumption segregation. In New York City, restaurant consumption is considerably more racially integrated than residences. A substantial share of consumption segregation is attributable to the fact that consumers are less likely to visit restaurants in neighbourhoods with demographics unlike their own.

Trevon Logan, John Parman, 09 March 2015

Racial disparities in socioeconomic conditions remain a major policy issue throughout the world. This column applies a new neighbour-based measure of residential segregation to US census data from 1880 and 1940. The authors find that existing measures understate the extent of segregation, and that segregation increased in rural as well as urban areas. The dramatic decline in opposite-race neighbours during the 20th century may help to explain the persistence of racial inequality in the US.

Romain Rancière, Amine Ouazad, 16 March 2012

Did the rise in subprime mortgages – predominantly to black and Hispanic borrowers – lead to a fall in racial segregation as people were able to move to more desirable neighbourhoods? This column looks at extensive data on mortgages and changes in the ethnic mix at local schools. It finds that the credit boom that precipitated the global financial crisis may actually have increased racial segregation.

William Easterly, 13 July 2009

The tipping point is a popular theory of social behaviour with many applications. This column says that Thomas Schelling’s original model of racially segregated neighbourhoods, while theoretically attractive, is strongly rejected by US data.

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