Racial Segregation in the United States since the Great Depression: A Dynamic Segregation Approach
Racial segregation is a salient feature of cities in the United States. Models like Schelling (1971) show that segregation can arise through white preferences for residing near minorities. Once the threshold or "tipping point" is passed, the models predict that all whites will leave. Our paper uses census-tract data for six cities in the United States from the 1930s and 1970-2010 to measure decadal, city-specific tipping points. We use a structural break procedure to estimate the tipping points and incorporate these in a regression-discontinuity design to estimate the impact on population trends for neighborhoods that exceed that threshold while controlling for city-specific trends in migration. We find that the magnitude of white flight for neighborhoods that have tipped in 2000 has fallen to between 23 and 36 percent of the level seen in 1970. There was no discontinuity in white flight after accounting for migration trends during the Great Depression. Finally, we show that in-migration of minorities in tipped neighborhoods do not fill in the gap left by white flight.