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THE DIVERSITY OF INTEGRATION IN A MULTIETHNIC METROPOLIS: Exploring What Whites, African Americans, and Latinos Imagine

  • Maria Krysan (a1), Courtney Carter (a2) and Marieke van Londen (a3)

Although there is little debate that Census data reveal declines in standard measures of segregation over the past several decades, depending on who you ask, racial residential segregation is either just about gone or is stubbornly persistent. In this study, we draw attention to how the murkiness in the conceptualization of what has replaced ‘segregation’ and the related question of what integration is, contributes to this disagreement. Through an analysis of attitudes toward racially integrated neighborhoods, we demonstrate the pitfalls of our lack of consistency and clarity about the conceptual and operational definition of integration. Our analysis reveals the diversity of attitudes toward integrated communities—depending on who is asked, and what kind of integration is considered—and points to a fragility of commitment to the ideals of integration. We do this by using an innovative survey dataset that includes both open and closed-ended questions asked of a large probability sample of Whites, African Americans, and Latinos living in the Chicago metropolitan area. The survey asked individuals to describe their ideal neighborhood racial/ethnic composition and explain why it was ideal; they were then asked to describe (and explain) their least desired neighborhood racial/ethnic composition. Juxtaposing the results, we reveal that integration is both enthusiastically endorsed and much maligned—even within the same person—and that whether it is good or bad very much depends on the type of integration. We argue that appreciating the diversity of integration attitudes is critical if we are to develop a more nuanced understanding of future patterns of residential stratification in our increasingly diverse nation.

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Corresponding author
* Corresponding author: Maria Krysan, Department of Sociology (m/c 312), University of Illinois at Chicago, 1007 W. Harrison Street, Chicago, IL 60607. E-mail:
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Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race
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