MARIA KRYSAN Questions have been raised about whether white flight—one factor contributing to U.S. residential segregation—is driven by racial, race-associated, or neutral ethnocentric concerns. I use closed- and open-ended survey data from the Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality to explore who says they would leave and their reasons for doing so. Thirty-eight percent of white respondents said they would leave one of the integrated neighborhoods, with Detroiters and those endorsing negative racial stereotypes especially likely to do so. When asked why they might leave, whites focused on the negative features of integrated neighborhoods. Expressions of racial prejudice were also common, but neutral ethnocentrism rare. The results of an experiment asking about integration with Asians and Latinos are also discussed.

For a neighborhood, it is not a problem how many blacks come into it. The problem is how many whites go out. —respondent in the Detroit Area Study

'ne of today's central debates about the residential segregation process centers on the motivation behind whites' opposition to integrated neighborhoods. The traditional interpretation is that opposition is motivated by racial prejudice (e.g., Charles 2000; Farley et al. 1994; Zubrinsky and Bobo 1996). But recently, researchers have raised questions about v^'hether whites' objections are driven instead by (1) the desire to avoid neighborhoods with certain characteristics that whites associate with African American neighborhoods (e.g., Harris 1999, 2001; Taub, Taylor, and Dunham 1984) or (2) the desire to live near one's "own kind," out of a sense of neutral ethnocentrism (Clark 1992). Which of these forces underlies attitudes toward white flight—and whites' residential preferences more generally—has relevance to our understanding of contemporary racial attitudes and residential preferences, as well as significant policy implications. Although demographic analyses of neighborhood change and residential segregation have routinely made assumptions about the motives underlying the white-flight process, relatively little empirical evidence has been brought to bear on this issue. That is, little is known about what whites think of integrating neighborhoods—what these neighborhoods are like, what they will become, and why whites may leave them. This article reports on individual-level attitudinal data related to white flight as one way to answer these questions. White flight, as described by the Detroit-area resident quoted at the beginning of the article, occurs when the arrival of African Americans in a neighborhood prompts the rapid departure of whites, thus turning a community from all white to all African
*Maria Krysan, Department of Sociology (m/c 312), University of Illinois at Chicago, 1007 W. Harrison Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60607; E-mail: krysan@uic.edu. This research was supported by grants from the Russell Sage Foundation, the National Science Foundation (SES 96-18700 and SES 00-95658), and the Ford Foundation. The author gratefully acknowledges the Russell Sage Foundation because much of the work for this article was completed while she was a visiting scholar at the foundation. Nakesha Faison and Kelly Harr Shomo provided invaluable research assistance, and Kyle Crowder, William P. Bridges, and Howard Schuman gave many insightful comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this article.
Demography, Voiume 39<Number 4. November 2002: 675-696 675


Demography, Voiume 39-Number 4, November 2002

American. To be sure, this process is not the only cause of racial residential segregation. Indeed, its contributions have been hotly contested, with some maintaining its importance (Galster 1990; Goering 1978; Mayer 1960; Quillian 1999; Schelling 1971; Wolf 1963; Wurdock 1981) and others downplaying its significance (Frey 1979; Marshall 1979; Marshall and O'Flaherty 1987; Molotch 1969). More recently, researchers have offered more nuanced conclusions that specify the conditions under which white flight does and does not occur and have demonstrated that it cannot be ignored as one of the many contributing causes of persistent segregation (e.g., Crowder 2000; Galster 1990; Lee and Wood 1991). While neither an analysis of neighborhood change nor a complete explication of the conditions under which white flight occurs, this article presents results that have important implications for the interpretation of these demographic processes. Specifically, I examine the often-assumed—but seldom empirically examined—social psychological features of them. By examining both who said they might leave an integrating neighborhood and the reasons they gave for this decision, this analysis focuses on individual-level attitudinal expressions of white flight, although the insights may also apply to the question of what shapes whites' residential preferences more generally. BACKGROUND What Is the Evidence on White Flight? White flight is a pithy phrase that conjures up images of an inevitable and inexorable process of neighborhood change. As a description of one of the facts of urban life, it has proved to be as controversial and complex as it is catchy. Over the past four decades, researchers have disagreed about the validity of the white-flight hypothesis, with early work tending to come down on one side or the other. More recently, recognizing that white flight is neither universal nor inevitable, the emphasis has shifted toward specifying the conditions under which it does and does not occur. For example, Lee and Wood (1991) studied integrated neighborhoods in U.S. metropolitan areas and found that patterns consistent with white flight varied considerably across region and city: between 1970 and 1980, 90% of integrated census tracts in Atlanta and Detroit but just one-third in Boston and Los Angeles experienced racial succession. Galster (1990) also highlighted the contingent nature of white flight in his study of Cleveland, where he found that census tracts in which segregationist sentiment was the highest (as measured by aggregate public opinion) were most likely to undergo neighborhood racial transition. Studies such as these, which have used the neighborhood as the unit of analysis and have found, under certain conditions, patterns of neighborhood change that are consistent with white flight, have come up short as tests of the white-flight hypothesis because they have failed to take into account individual-level factors. Put simply, we need to know why people move, not simply that they do so. In his classic work on this topic, Rossi (1955) emphasized that individual characteristics are important predictors of general residential mobility. People move because they get married, get divorced, have children, or become "empty nesters.' They move because they are renters and want to own. They move because of their age, gender, or income. To understand white flight, in particular, both the neighborhood context (in this case, its racial composition) and individual characteristics must be considered. Neglecting the latter risks overstating the effects of white flight because mobility (apart from racially motivated mobility) may eventually result in neighborhood transition (e.g., Frey 1979). In a study of Nashville, Lee, Oropesa, and Kanan (1994) included both individual factors and neighborhood context and found that both predicted mobility. They developed a comprehensive conceptualization of neighborhood context that included objective and subjective perceptions of neighborhood features, as well as static and dynamic

Whites Who Say They'd Flee


dimensions. Their results showed that neighborhood characteristics—particularly subjective perceptions of them—influenced mobility behavior indirectly through their influence on thoughts about mobility. Temporality was important as well: expected changes in the features of the neighborhood were one of the strongest predictors of mobility. Although Lee et al. (1994) found that objective racial composition did not predict mobility, Crowder's (2000) explicit test of the white-flight hypothesis showed that it did matter—beyond individual characteristics and in the face of other changes in the social and economic character of the neighborhood. Using individual-level national data, Crowder demonstrated that recent changes in the proportion of African Americans in a tract were a significant predictor of white mobility from a tract. In addition, he pointed out that although the substantive impact of neighborhood racial composition is relatively modest on an annual basis, when compounded across several years, the modest effect can contribute to significant neighborhood change because of its constant "downward pressure" on white representation. Research has begun to identify important caveats and nuances with respect to when and under what conditions neighborhood change and white flight operate, but little is known about what motivates whites to leave integrating neighborhoods. As Lee et al. (1994) noted, studies of "contextual" effects fail to answer the question. Why does a particular context have an influence on a particular behavior? Lee et al. speculated that "the answer pertains to the degree of threat that the attributes are felt to pose to a household's investment in the residential setting . . . [and] . . . probing this calculus should rank high among the tasks to be undertaken in future mobility research" (p. 265). In my research, I took on this task and asked. What is the calculus at work when whites express a desire to leave an integrating neighborhood? What are the threats and risks that whites perceive in an integrating neighborhood? In short, what are the mechanisms through which racial context operates on thoughts of mobility? Although the optimal approach for answering questions about motivations would be to use longitudinal data that measure both attitudes and behavior at the individual level, these data do not exist. Nevertheless, much remains to be learned from a close examination of the existing attitudinal data to shed light on whites' expectations about integrated neighborhoods and the reasons they give when they say they would move from them. In this article, I flrst examine what distinguishes whites who are more likely and less likely to state their intention to leave integrated neighborhoods. Second, and more important, I examine what underlies the expressions of white flight by analyzing whites' explanations of why they say they would try to leave. It is important to recognize that the connection between attitudes and behaviors is complex (Schuman and Johnson 1976). By focusing on white-flight attitudes, I do not mean to imply a one-to-one correspondence between, for example, those who tell an interviewer they would leave a neighborhood and those who would actually do so. Indeed, some have argued that this connection may be loose with respect to whites' intentions to flee (Molotch 1969). Equally inappropriate, however, would be the assumption that attitudes and subjective perceptions play no part in decisions about housing and mobility behavior. Galster's (1990) study in Clleveland that showed the importance of "segregationist sentiment" is one such piece of evidence, and Lee et al.'s (1994) flndings that subjective perceptions are important is another. Finally, white flight is clearly not the only—or even the main—engine behind racial residential segregation. It is not simply the individual actions of individual whites with particular racist attitudes that cause the stubborn patterns of racial residential segregation. As Massey and Denton (1993), among others, persuasively argued, there are considerable institutional and structural barriers to racial integration. African Americans are and have been routinely and systematically barred from living and purchasing homes in predominantly or overwhelmingly white neighborhoods by practices, such as block busting.

Demography, Volume 39.Number 4, November 2002

redlining, racial steering, discrimination in obtaining financing and insurance, and countless other subtle and not-so-subtle policies and practices (e.g., Massey and Denton 1993; Turner and Wienk 1993; Yinger 1995). At the same time, one such manifestation of these various practices has been the movement of whites out of areas into which African Americans move and whites' decisions not to move into areas that already have more than a token number of African Americans. In short, white flight is neither the only nor the main cause of residential segregation. And while the evidence points to it as having a contributing role—under certain circumstances—our understanding of the attitudes underlying these behaviors remains incomplete. Who Says They'd Flee? Numerous analyses (e.g., Schuman et al. 1997) have demonstrated the importance of age, education, and gender in shaping whites' racial attitudes, especially related to social distance. Thus, white-flight attitudes should also be related to these characteristics. Indeed, analyses of general racial residential preferences have been consistent with this expectation (Bobo and Zubrinsky 1996; Farley, Fielding, and Krysan 1997; Farley et al. 1994). Put simply, women, the young, and the well educated should be less likely to say they would leave a neighborhood upon the arrival of African Americans than should their less well-educated, older, and male counterparts. The more specific focus of this research suggests four additional factors from the literature on residential mobility. First, because home owners are more invested—at least flnancially—in their neighborhoods, they may be more concerned about possible declines in the quality of their neighborhoods and the potential loss of their investment and there-. fore more likely than renters to say they would move in the face of change (Lee et al. 1994; Wolf 1963). Second, parents with children under age 18 in their households may be more concerned about their children's safety and the quality of their schools and so be more likely to say they would leave (Harris 1999). Third, those with higher incomes may be best able to afford to "flee" integrating neighborhoods (Berry 1979; Crowder 2000) and thus may be more likely than those with lower incomes to indicate they would do so. Fourth, analyses of the same data set used in the present analysis (but that have examined different measures of residential preferences) have shown that whites who hold stereotypical beliefs about African Americans are less comfortable with the prospect of living in integrated neighborhoods (Charles 2000, 2001; Farley et al. 1994). Related to this finding, however, Bobo and Zubrinsky (1996) and Charles (2001) found that perceived social-class differences do not predict residential preferences.'

Why Do They Say They'd Leave?
Previous research provided descriptions of the patterns and social and demographic correlates of residential preferences (Charles 2000, 2001; Farley et al. 1978, 1994; Zubrinsky and Bobo 1996). But few attitudinal studies have examined white-flight attitudes, in particular, and even fewer have dug beneath expressions of white flight to understand why whites hold the attitudes they do.^ The importance of doing so is highlighted by the fact
1. The present study differs in at least three ways from other analyses that used the same data set. First, whereas Farley et al.'s (1994) study examined data just from Detroit, this study used data from all four cities. Second, Charles (2000, 2001) measured preferences with questions on comfort levels and willingness to move into various integrated neighborhoods (as well as a "draw your own" neighborhood technique). The desire to move out of an integrating neighborhood—or white-flight attitudes—is a different dimension of residential preferences that has not been the subject of prior analyses. Third, this study complemented the closed-ended quantitative analysis of residential preferences with a more qualitatively oriented approach in which responses to open-ended questions about residential preferences were systematically analyzed; this, too, has not been done to the same degree, if at all, in previous studies. 2. Farley et al. (1978, 1994) conducted some analyses of the reasons whites give to explain their desire to move from an integrating neighborhood, but the analyses were limited and restricted to the Detroit area.

Whites Who Say They'd Flee


that demographic analyses of white flight have based their conclusions on untested assumptions about the basis of whites' motivations to leave. At the same time, however, the debate about whether white flight is an important contributor to residential segregation has pointed out that it may not be the decision to move out of a neighborhood that is as important as what kind of neighborhood whites decide to move into (Crowder 2000; Frey 1979; Marshall 1979; Marshall and O'Flaherty 1987; South and Crowder 1998). Indeed, both demographic and attitudinal data indicate that whites choose to move into (and prefer) communities with no more than a token number of African Americans. But studies have provided little direct analysis of why whites prefer whiter neighborhoods. So, although my study examined attitudes about white flight, the analysis of the reasons whites give for why they would leave a particular neighborhood is also likely to be applicable to the reasons whites would give for why they would choose not to move into such a neighborhood in the first place. The research literature suggests three motivations: racial, race associated, and neutral ethnocentrism. Racial reasons. Traditional interpretations of white-flight behavior and attitudes have identified racial prejudice as the motivating factor. Generally, racial prejudice is viewed from a psychological perspective, and is an individual-level phenomenon involving expressions of anti-African American hostility and negative beliefs about other racial groups. Thus, operationally, "racial" reasons are those that refer to a dislike or distrust of African Americans, a simple desire not to live near African Americans, and references to negative stereotypes about African Americans as a group (see, for example, Allport 1954; Bobo and Zubrinsky 1996; Jackman 1994). Bobo and Zubrinsky (1996) directed attention to a second, more sociological, conception derived from Blumer's (1958) theory of prejudice as a sense of group position, in which prejudice is not an individual's irrational response, but a reaction of the members of the dominant group to a threat by the subordinate group. Applied to the case of residential preferences, integration poses a threat to whites' dominant position in the neighborhood and their sense of what "ought to be." Whites want to leave neighborhoods with African Americans because they do not want to be in the minority, because they perceive that African Americans are "taking over," and/or because they view their neighborhoods as their "territories." Race-associated reasons. Several scholars have argued that white flight is driven not by racial prejudice, but by concerns about the characteristics of neighborhoods that correlate with its racial composition (Harris 1999, 2001; Taub et al. 1984). That is, whites are motivated to avoid particular neighborhoods because of race-associated characteristics, such as crime or neighborhood deterioration—not the actual race of their neighbors. In the context of white-flight attitudes, the distinction between racial and raceassociated reasons is problematic because it glosses over the role of subjective perceptions. Specifically, when a white family is deciding to leave or not, what is important is whether they believe an integrated neighborhood will become a high-crime, deteriorating, low property-value area. It matters less whether it eventually does become such a place (Wolf 1963). Thus, from the vantage of attitudes and perceptions, the question of a race-associated explanation for white flight loses the race-neutral veneer that Harris (1999, 2001) and others put on it. Indeed, it becomes difficult to separate race-associated reasons from what are more explicitly racial reasons, such as stereotypes about African Americans or anti-African American hostility. For example, in a study of Detroit, nearly half the white respondents believed that African Americans are more violent and take less good care of their properties than do whites (Krysan 1998). These negative stereotypes of African Americans as a group may translate into negative perceptions of integrated neighborhoods, such that when whites object to integrated neighborhoods on the basis of concerns that it is—or will become—a "bad place to live," they are, to a degree.


Demography, Voiume 39-Number 4, November 2002

articulating racial stereotypes. Although it is conceptually difficult to separate racial and race-associated reasons, I maintained this distinction and conducted analyses to determine if they have different features. Neutral ethnocentric reasons. Clark (1992) and others have argued that whites' objections to living with African Americans are based on a desire to seek neighborhoods with their "own group," rather than to escape contact with another group. People are drawn to neighborhoods in which they share a cultural background with other residents, and so it is the "pull" factor of neutral ethnocentrism that perpetuates segregation, not the "push" factor of the presence of another group. By this account, white-flight attitudes are conceived of as benign; inevitable; and devoid of racial prejudice, stereotypes, or conflict. Multiethnic note. Historically, data on racial residential preferences have been limited to African Americans and whites. Increasingly, however, our nation is better characterized as "prismatic" (Zubrinsky and Bobo 1996) because of the increase in immigration from Asia and Latin America. This data set provides an opportunity also to examine whites' attitudes toward living with Asians and Latinos. Using these data for Los Angeles, Zubrinsky and Bobo (1996) found a racial hierarchy in which African Americans were considered the least desirable neighbors, Asians the most, with Latinos falling in the middle. More recently, Charles (2000, 2001) used the same data set that I analyzed to examine the preferences of whites toward living with Asians, Latinos, and African Americans and showed a similar hierarchy.^ My study extended these studies by asking whether the reasons whites give for objecting to neighborhoods with Asians and Latinos differ from their reasons for wanting to leave neighborhoods with African Americans. DATA AND METHODS The data came from the Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality (MCSUI), which investigated the beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes of large samples of adults in metropolitan Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, and Los Angeles."* MCSUI used a multistage area-probability sample of households in each metropolis, drawing on block-group data from the 1990 census as the sampling frame. Face-to-face interviews were conducted in the mid-1990s with a randomly selected adult resident of each sampled household, producing a total of 2,810 non-Hispanic white respondents (for details on the study and sample design, see Bobo et al. 2000). Despite efforts to match the races of the interviewers and respondents, some slippage occurred, particularly in Atlanta (where 20% of whites were interviewed by African American interviewers). Because of the evidence that the race of an interviewer influences expressions of whites' racial attitudes (Finkel, Guterbock, and Borg 1989; Hatchett and Schuman 1976; Schuman et al. 1997) and because whites who were interviewed by African Americans were more likely to be living in currently integrated neighborhoods, the multivariate analyses controlled for these two characteristics. To assess the neighborhood preferences of whites, MCSUI used an approach developed by Farley et al. (1978) for the 1976 Detroit Area Study. A series of cards were prepared showing neighborhoods ranging from all white to one occupied by eight black and seven white families (see Figure 1). White respondents were first shown the all-white card and were asked to imagine that they lived in such a neighborhood. They were then presented with cards containing greater densities of blacks. With each card, they were asked how comfortable they would feel living in such a racially mixed neighborhood
3. Charles (2000, 2001) also examined the preferences of Asians and Latinos toward living with white, African American, Asian and Latino neighbors. Clearly, understanding the reasons underlying the preferences of these groups is an important topic for future research, but it is beyond the scope of this article. See Krysan and Farley (2002) for an analysis of the reasons underlying African Americans' preferences. 4. The Los Angeles questionnaire did not include the "would you move out?" series of questions, so I was unable to include it in the full analysis. However, I use a related set of questions in the multiethnic analysis.

Whites Who Say They'd Fiee Figure 1.


Neighborhood Diagrams Used to Measure Whites' Residential Preferences in the MultiCity Study of Urban Inequality Scenario 1 Scenario 2

Scenario 3 / \ Your House

Scenario 4

Scenario 5

Z \ Your L J House

using a 4-point scale, ranging from "very comfortable" to "very uncomfortable." If the respondents said that they would feel somewhat or very uncomfortable, they were asked if they would try to move out should their own neighborhood come to have a racial composition similar to the one depicted on the card. If they said they would not try to move out, they were shown cards with higher densities of blacks until they said they would try to move out or reached the fifth card showing a majority black neighborhood (with eight black and seven white families). The dependent variable was constructed from these questions and identifies the level of integration at which the respondents indicated they would leave. The cards show neighborhoods with 1, 3, 5, and 8 black families (out of 15), which correspond to neighborhoods that are 7%, 20%, 33%, and 53% black, respectively. Although this variable may be considered ordinal, because of the violation of the parallel regression assumption (Long and Freese 2001), I treated it as nominal and used multinomial logistic regression. The omitted category comprises respondents who indicated they would not be uncomfortable and/or would not move out of a neighborhood in which they were in the numeri-


Demography, Voiume 39-Number 4, November 2002

cal minority (scenario 5).' The key independent variables are age, education, income, home ownership, gender, and presence of children, as well as a measure of stereotypes* and controls for the racial composition of the respondent's census-block group and the race of interviewer. A more textured picture of whites' attitudes about integrated neighborhoods is provided through a systematic analysis of the responses to an open-ended follow-up question. Whites who said they would move out of any one of the neighborhoods were asked to explain, in their own words, why they would move out.^ The verbatim responses to the question—"Why would you try to move out?"—Were entered into FoxPro, a relational database program used to code and analyze the open-ended data. A complex coding scheme with numerous categories was created to capture as fully as possible the range of responses, but it was ultimately reduced to the 12 substantive and 3 nonsubstantive categories shown in the tables. A single respondent's answer could be coded under an unlimited number of themes. After an initial training period, a research assistant and the author independently coded all responses. The initial coder agreement was assessed by calculating the percentage of cases in which the two coders agreed precisely on how to code the complete response. For example, if a particular respondent mentioned three themes in his or her answer, the two coders each had to identify all three themes for the agreement to be considered complete. If the coders deviated on even one code, the case was considered a disagreement. Using this conservative estimate of the coders' reliability, the initial agreement rate was 84% in Atlanta, 70% in Boston, and 73% in Detroit. After coding each response independently, the two coders discussed and resolved any disagreements. In Los Angeles, whites were asked about living not only with blacks, but with Asians and Latinos. Instead of being asked the "would you move" questions, however, they were asked about their comfort with different levels of integration and then asked to explain, in an open-ended question, why they would feel uncomfortable. Despite this inconsistency, given the paucity of data on whites' attitudes toward groups other than blacks, I briefly discuss these items in a supplemental analysis. To avoid invoking the "norm of evenhandedness," a split-ballot design was used, so that a random one-third of whites were asked about integration with either blacks, Asians, or Latinos. Because of the small samples, multivariate analyses are not possible.*

5. This measure is clearly truncated because the respondents were not asked about neighborhoods that were more than 53% black. Presumably, among the omitted group are those who would leave at some higher percentage of blacks, as well as others who would state that they would not leave even if they were the only white family left in the neighborhood. 6. The stereotype measure was constructed from four questions asking whites to assess whites and blacks on a 7-point scale, where one end is a positive characteristic and the other a negative characteristic (easy versus hard to get along with, prefer to live off welfare versus prefer to be self-supporting, intelligent versus unintelligent, and speak English well versus speak English poorly). Respondents who gave valid answers on at least two of the four items were included in the analysis. A respondent's score was based on the average difference between the rating a respondent assigned to whites versus blacks on the items for which a respondent provided an answer. Only 4.7% of the respondents failed to answer all four items: of these, 3.2% did not answer one item, 0.9% did not answer two, and just four respondents (0.7%) were excluded because they answered just one or two of the items. The stereotype scale ranged from -6 to +6, (+6 means a respondent rated blacks at the most extreme negative point (7) and whites at the most extreme positive point (1). 7. As with all sensitive questions asked of survey respondents, there is always a concern about the level of candor and the extent to which the respondents are able to articulate accurately the reasons behind their stated answers. The respondents seemed open in answering these questions, but nevertheless the responses should be treated as conservative estimates of the admission of socially sensitive attitudes, such as racial prejudice and stereotyping. 8. Whites in Boston were also asked about integration with Asians and Latinos. Because of the small samples, however, I report only briefly on these data.

Whites Who Say They'd Flee


RESULTS How Many Whites Said They Would Flee? Overall, 38% of non-Hispanic whites in Atlanta, Boston, and Detroit said they would consider moving out of one of the four neighborhoods with black residents. The percentage increased as the percentage of blacks in the hypothetical neighborhood increased: from 3% of whites who said they would move out of a neighborhood with a single black family to 19% who said they would move if their neighborhood was majority black. Furthermore, 6% and 10% of whites, respectively, said they would move from a neighborhood with five black or three black families. Who Said They Would Flee? Table 1 reports the multinomial logistic regression results that identify the difference between those who said they would not move from any of the neighborhoods and those who said they would. Beginning with those who would leave a neighborhood with a single black family, compared with those who would stay, the "early leavers" were significantly less educated and more likely to be male. Although none of the other demographic variables was significant, racial attitudes clearly matter: those who said they would leave a neighborhood at the arrival of the first black family were two times more likely to endorse negative stereotypes about blacks than were those who would remain in the neighborhood at least to the eight black-seven white composition. However, rating blacks as poorer than whites does not predict departure at this (or any) level. Turning to the second column in Table 1, education was nonsignificant, but city of residence, stereotypes, and the presence of children in the home all influenced the desire to flee at the 20% black level. Detroit residents were nearly four times more likely than Boston residents to say they would leave this neighborhood than to say they would stay up to the 53% black neighborhood. Detroiters were also more likely than Atlantans to say they would leave. It is interesting that whites who had children in their homes were half as likely as those with no children in their homes to say they would move out at this level, which is opposite to the expectation. Finally, the respondents who lived in neighborhoods with more African American families were significantly less likely to say they would leave a 3 black-12 white neighborhood. Conclusions about causal direction cannot be disentangled, however, because it is unclear whether those who live in integrated neighborhoods are selective of those who are the most tolerant of integrated living or whether the experience of living in a relatively integrated neighborhood decreases hostility and discomfort with such an arrangement. In the third column of Table 1, Detroiters were again significantly more likely to say they would leave than were Bostoners. And although the coefficients for the middleincome categories are significant, the addition of the series of dummy variables measuring income does not significantly improve the overall fit of the model (detailed results not shown). Not much distinguishes those who said they would leave the 53% black neighborhood from those who said they would not leave, as shown in column 4. Atlantans were significantly less likely than Bostoners (and Detroiters) to say so. The social context of the interview setting was also influential: whites who were interviewed by an African American interviewer were significantly less likely than those who were interviewed by a white interviewer to say they would leave this neighborhood. Finally, the respondents who more strongly endorsed negative stereotypical beliefs about blacks were, again, significantly more likely to say they would move out of this neighborhood in which they would be in the minority. In analyses of the MCSUI data—using different dependent variables—Charles (2000, 2001) found a similarly consistent effect of stereotypes on residential preferences.

684 Table 1.

Demography, Volume 39-Number 4, November 2002 Multinomial Logit Regression (Log Odds) of Whites' Attitudes Toward Moving Away From an Integrating Neighborhood: Adanta, Boston, and Detroit Residents Move Out at 1 Bkck-14 White Families

Move Out at 3 Black-12 White Families

Move Out at 5 Black-10 White Families (3) 1.00 1.61 2.75*** 1.00 1.01* 0.80 0.81 1.07 1.00 1.67 1.35** 1.28* 1.15 2.01* 0.43 0.27* 2.03*** 0.94

Move Out at 8 Black-7 White Families (4) 1.00 0.63* 1.43 0.99 1.00 0.94 1.12 0.83 1.00 1.04 1.07 1.13 1.01 0.54* 0.45* 0.44 1.62*** 0.98 0.245 0.274

City Boston (omitted) Atlanta Detroit Background Variables Education (in years) Age (in years) Female Homeowner Children in home Family income < 20,000 (omitted) $20,000-39,999 $40,000-59.999 $60,000-79,999 > $80,000 Income missing Conrrol Variables Black interviewer Percentage black in tract/block group Attitudes Stereotype index Blacks poorer than whites Cox and Snell - R' Nagelkerke - R^

1.00 0.79 1.85 0.87* 1.02 0.42" 1.77 1.45 1.00 0.44 0.92 0.93 0.80 0.59 0.17 1.18 2.08*** 1.25

1.00 0.89 4.40*** 0.94 1.00 0.57* 1.61 0.52* 1.00 0.89 1.05 1.14 0.93 1.33 0.23 0.04* 2.36*** 1.03

Note: The omitted category is those who said they would stay in the 8 black-7 white neighborhood. */><.05;**;)<.01; "><.OO1

Thus, the present results demonstrate that the effect of the endorsement of stereotypes is robust across a variety of dimensions of residential preferences. At the same time, the results highlight some nuances with respect to which levels of integration prompt a "flee" response and how the patterns vary for different types of respondents. Why Would They Leave? With this understanding of who said they would leave various neighborhoods, I now turn to the words of the respondents themselves to examine whether whites' explanations

Whites Who Say They'd Flee


reflect racial, race-associated, or neutral ethnocentric concerns. As such, the sample is now restricted to only those who said they would move out of one of the four neighborhoods. The three main themes are categorized into several subgroups as shown in Table 2.' Illustrative responses are presented in the text, and a detailed coding scheme and description are available from the author. Each respondent could mention more than one reason, so the total percentages sum to more than 100%. The number of reasons mentioned by the respondents varied across the three cities: Atlanta (1.17), Boston (1.50), and Detroit (1.46). Racial reasons. Table 2 shows the breakdown of reasons overall and separately by the neighborhood that prompted the "flee" response. Traditional prejudice, revealed both by expressions of racial hostility and by negative stereotypes about African Americans, constitutes a small but not insignificant percentage of the reasons the respondents gave. Overall, about 6% of the respondents said they would leave a neighborhood because of an opposition to integration in general and/or living next to African Americans in particular or made an explicit statement of hostility toward or a lack of trust or dislike of African Americans. For example, respondents said something like "Blacks and whites shouldn't mix," "I don't trust them," "Because I'd be uncomfortable. [What do you mean?] What can I say, I just don't like blacks." Another 10% expressed a negative perception about the characteristics of African Americans as a group, as in "They're too loud"; "They are lazy and dirty": "Because when they move in, they absolutely destroy things"; and "They would beat my kids to death—black kids would." Of the three racial reasons, "prejudice as a sense of group position" was the most frequently mentioned: about one in five respondents who would leave one of the integrating neighborhoods pointed to concerns about the relative proportion of African Americans, that African Americans would take over the neighborhood, that the races would not get along, or that African Americans would discriminate against them in an integrated neighborhood.'" Some such statements included, "Because I would be surrounded by a black majority," "Because 1 would be in the minority. Nothing personal against blacks," "I'd feel I was being moved out of my neighborhood," and "They are taking over my territory." The prevalence of responses like these suggests that numbers do count for whites. These respondents viewed their neighborhoods as places where the presence of another racial group reflects a sense of a loss of control over their living situations and integrated neighborhoods threaten their dominant status. Being a minority was clearly an unacceptable and uncomfortable prospect for them. Columns 2-5 in Table 2 show that some racial reasons are more common among those who object to certain neighborhoods. For example, those who would leave the neighborhood with a token black family were the most likely to report racial hostility: 17% of whites, compared with just 4% of those who said they would leave an eight black-seven white family neighborhood. Those who objected to neighborhoods with higher proportions of black families were more likely to voice concerns about numbers, but concerns about a "takeover" were most prevalent among those who objected to the barely integrated neighborhoods. Race-associated reasons. The race-associated reasons were divided into two categories: descriptions of integrated neighborhoods as having various undesirable characteristics and concerns about property values. Clearly, a substantial percentage of whites who said they would try to flee had negative images of what an integrated neighborhood would be like: it would be crime ridden and have graffiti, drug problems, and poor
9. There are also three nonsubstantive categories: "it depends" (those who said their decision depended on the type of person who moved in or what happened upon their arrival), "qualify the response" (those who noted, for example, that they were not prejudiced themselves or indicated ambivalence in some other way), and "none of the above" (those whose answers did not fit into any of the categories shown on the table). 10. This group included only those who expressed concern about proportions, numbers, and takeovers but did not also express some hostility or negative perceptions of African Americans.


Demography, Volume 39-Number 4, November 2002

Table 2.

Reasons Why Whites Would Move Away From an Integrated Neighborhood: Total Sample and by Neighborhood They Would Move Away From: Atlanu, Boston, and Detroit Residents (Percentages) Total Move 1/14

Reason Racial Reasons Traditional prejudice; racial hostility Traditional prejudice; negative characteristics of African Americans Prejudice as sense of group position Too many (without negative perceptions) Don't want to be minority (without negative perceptions) Takeover Won't get along Race-Associated Reasons Characteristics of integrated neighborhoods" Crime Other qualities of the neighborhood Property values Neutral Ethnocentrism Want to be with own kind Cultural differences Nonsubstantive Themes None of the above It depends Qualify the response


Move 3/12 (3)

Move 5/10 (4)



/.Value (6)







10.4 20.5

12.5 16.7

13.5 26.9

12.6 19.5 5.7

7.8 19.5

.216 .339 .191




7.6 3.9



6.9 5.2

7.8 4.5 3.6

.043 .000 .689

39.0 23.5 21.5 33.8

37.5 20.8 18.8 27.1
8.3 8.3

42.3 18.3 27.9 42.3
6.7 1.9

38.5 23.0 23.0 39.7
3.4 4.0 9.8

38.3 26.0 18.8 28.6

.896 .416 .235 .013 .364 .322 .169 .209 .704

4.4 11.7 19.9 7.9 634

4.9 14.0 22.7
9.1 308

14.6 12.5
8.3 48

6.7 15.4 6.7

6.3 174

Note: These results are for only those who said they would move out of one of the neighborhoods. More than one reason may be coded for a respondent, so the totals sum to over 100%. In the sixth column, p values are based on a chi-square test of the statistical significance of the relationship between mentioning a particular theme and the level of integration from which a respondent indicated he or she would leave. "This category includes respondents who were coded under either "crime" or "other qualities of the neighborhood," but respondents could be double counted, so the individual percentages do not sum to the total.

property upkeep. Examples of statements included "The houses will go downhill. When one moves in, a lot of things come along with it" and "Crime seems to increase when black families move in." Nearly 4 out of 10 white respondents perceived a number of risks to the quality of life in an integrated neighborhood. Of the neighborhood features,

Whites Who Say They'd Flee


crime was the most prominent. In addition, concerns about property values dropping were widespread: one-third of the respondents who said they would leave said something like this: "I wouldn't want to lose house value" or "The market value of our property would drop quick." Across neighborhood types, there was no difference in the percentage of respondents who mentioned negative characteristics of neighborhoods. This finding suggests that although thresholds differ (the respondents said they would leave at different levels), once individuals reach their thresholds, there is consistency about what people think will happen to the neighborhood. Concerns about property values, however, varied across neighborhoods: those who objected to the three and five black-family neighborhoods were more likely to give this reason than were those who objected at both the higher and lower levels. Neutral ethnocentrism. Responses in this category refer to a stated desire not to avoid African Americans, but to live with one's "own kind" " or to live in a neighborhood where the respondents would share a cultural background with the other residents. As is clear from Table 2, responses of this type were a relatively small percentage. Just 6% and 4%, respectively, said something like, "Nothing in common with the neighbors," "Feel more drawn to people of my own race," and "Not many of my own people around," There was no difference by type of neighborhood for the mention of these two themes. Stereotypes of people versus neighborhoods: Are they different? Stereotypes figured prominently in these results. Not only was the use of stereotypes one of the strongest predictors in the quantitative model, but at least three different types of stereotypes were prevalent in the open-ended responses. Some stereotypes were explicitly about African Americans:
1 hate to tell you this and talk about people. I just wouldn't want to live with that many black people. Some don't keep up their houses. They have a tendency not to care for what belongs to them. Go two blocks and you'll see a huge eyesore. And you know it's them that live there. I like my [black] neighbor. I like him, but he doesn t keep up the house. When they say "there goes the neighborhood,' they mean it. They steal in the stores. They Utter. They destroy. Some referred not explicitly to African Americans, but to the neighborhoods in which African Americans live: When a neighborhood becomes majority black, then conditions develop, such as problems of crime, quality of education declining, quality and condition of housing declining. I wouldn't want to live in a rundown neighborhood with drugs, violence, crime, and that's how the neighborhood would change. Finally, others mentioned stereotypes about property values: My perception would be that the property values would decrease based on historical patterns in the Detroit area. I don't know if that's fact, but that's my perception. Property values would go down. Economics is everything. It's the way society is, not my personal feelings for individuals.

11. Any respondent who expressed both a desiTe to live among his or her own kind and a negative perception of African Americans was not included in this category because the respondents in this instance explicitly connected their desire to be around their own group with beliefs about particular negative characteristics about another group.


Demography, Volume 39-Number 4, November 2002

Table 3.

Reasons for Leaving an Integrating Neighborhood by Level of Stereotyping: Hierarchical Coding for Atlanta, Boston, and Detroit Residents (Percentages) Negative Through 1.00

Total Reason Traditional Prejudice: Racial Hostility Traditional Prejudice: Negative Characteristics of African Americans Prejudice as Sense of Group Position Characteristics of Integrated Neighborhoods Property Values Want to Be With Own Kind Cultural Differences None of the Above Total
n (1)

1.25 Through 2.00

2.25 Through 6.00 (4) 6.2 14.4 21.0 30.3 15.9
3.1 1.0 8.2

p Value (5) .877 .003 .327 .488 .064 .595 .077 .100

5.6 9.4 19.0 27.5 21.4 4.3

5.0 4.5 20.5 25.0 22.7
5.0 2.3


15.8 27.4 25.1
4.7 0.0

11.7 100.0

15.0 100.0

11.6 100.0


Notr. In the fifth column,^ values are based on a chi-square test of the statistical significance of the relationship between mentioning a particular theme and a respondent's score on the closed-ended stereotype scale. "Column does not sum to 100.0 because of rounding.

Although all three types of responses can be construed as stereotypes, the first was coded as a "racial" reason, while the other two were treated as "race associated." I now turn to a series of analyses that examined whether these three types of stereotypes have distinct features. Because the respondents could give more than one reason, some respondents may have mentioned one, two, or all three stereotypes; thus it is useful to identify the degree to which there is overlap. Such a comparison reveals a hierarchy: whereas 82% of whites who mentioned a negative characteristic of African Americans also mentioned a negative neighborhood characteristic, just 22% of those who mentioned negative neighborhood characteristics also gave a more explicit negative description of African Americans as a group. And fully 70% of those who mentioned property values did not provide any other negative characterization of integrated neighborhoods. Thus, those who gave the most blatant racial stereotypes (about African Americans themselves) were also likely to characterize the neighborhoods negatively, but those who gave the property-values stereotype were unlikely to point to other negative qualities of either African Americans or the neighborhoods. In light of this overlap and the conceptual distinction between racial and raceassociated responses, it is usefiil to construct a hierarchical variable in which respondents are assigned to just one category on the basis of a system that gives priority to the racial responses, then race-associated responses, and finally responses reflecting neutral ethnocentrism. The overall distribution of this new hierarchical variable is shown in column 1 of Table 3, with the priority matching the order in which the reasons are presented in the table. Using this hierarchical variable, I first examine the relationship between the reasons in the open-ended question and the closed-ended stereotype scale. The stereotype scale

Whites Who Say They'd Flee Table 4. Reasons for Leaving an Integrating Neighborhood by Level of Education: Hierarchical Coding for Atlanta, Boston, and Detroit Residents (Percentages) Total (1) 5.5 9.5 18.9 27.6 21.3 4.4 1.1 11.7 100.0 634 0-12 Years (2) 8.3 13.5 18.8 26.1 13.2 6.3 1.3 12.5 100.0 303 13-15 Years (3) 3.7 16 or More Years (4) 2.1 2.1 16.1 28.7 35.7 2.8 1.4 11.2 100.1' 143 ^ Value (5) .013 .001 .489 .707 .000 .094 .668 .799


Traditional Prejudice: Racial Hostility Traditional Prejudice: Negative Characteristics of African Americans Prejudice as Sense of Croup Position Characteristics of Integrated Neighborhoods Property Values Want to Be With Own Kind Cultural Differences None of the Above Total n

21.3 29.3 23.4 2.7 0.5 10.6 100.0 188

Note: In the fifth column,/) values are based on a chi-square test of the statistical significance of the relationship between mentioning a particular theme and a respondent's level of education. "Column does not sum to 100.0 because of rounding.

is divided into three groups in Table 3: (1) those who perceived almost no difference between blacks and whites, (2) those who endorsed the negative stereotypes to a small degree, and (3) those who strongly endorsed the stereotypes. The respondents who mentioned characteristics of African Americans in the open-ended question scored higher on the stereotype scale than did those who did not. The respondents who mentioned property values (and not either of the other two stereotypes) showed a relationship in the opposite direction: those who scored low on the stereotype scale were more likely to mention property values. Mentions of other negative characteristics of the neighborhood were unrelated to the quantitative measure of stereotypes.'^ Table 4 examines the relationship between whites' reasons for saying they would leave and their level of education. In addition to shedding light on the distinctiveness of the three stereotypes, it also adds information about whether the respondents with more and less education (who did not show large differences in whether they said they would leave) nevertheless thought about this issue differently. The results show that the respondents with less education were significantly more likely to express hostility and dislike of African Americans and to report negative characteristics of African Americans themselves. Concerns about declining property values, in contrast, were more popular among the respondents with more education, even when home ownership and income were controlled for (detailed results not shown). In addition to a substantive interpretation of these varying
12. At the same time, whites who rated blacks as poorer than whites were more likely to mention property values as their reason for wanting to move out than were those who perceived no differences in social class, but none of the other themes showed such a relationship. However, after 1 controlled for the respondents' education (it was those who were least educated who were most likely to deny the existence of social-class differences), the effect was reduced to nonsignificance.

Demography, Volume 39-Number 4, November 2002

Table 5.

Percentage of Los Angeles Wbites Wbo Said Tbey Would Be Uncomforuble in a Neigbborbood Witb Various Racial Compositions, by Race/Ethnicity of tbe Tai^et Group Black Hispanic Neighbors Asian Neighbors Neighbors

Neighborhood Racial Composition Not Uncomfortable in Any Neighborhood Uncomfortable in an 8-7 Neighborhood Uncomfortable in a 5-10 Neighborhood Uncomfortable in a 3-12 Neighborhood Uncomfortable in a 1-14 Neighborhood Total

44.2 25.3 13.7 10.0
6 . 8

64.6 17.7
9 . 7 4 . 0 4 . 0

73.0 15.0
8 . 0 1 . 0 3 . 0




relationships with education, these patterns may be due to differences by education in the susceptibility to social desirability pressures. A multiethnic note. Table 5 compares the responses of Los Angeles whites to integration with three groups: blacks, Asians, and Latinos. Recall that the Los Angeles survey used a slightly different question, asking not about moving out, but about how comfortable the respondents would be in various types of neighborhoods. As Zubrinsky and Bobo (1996) reported using the same data, whites considered blacks the least desirable neighbors, Asians the most, and Latinos in the middle.'^ But do whites object to integration with blacks, Asians, and Latinos for different reasons? For example, if whites are driven by "neutral ethnocentrism," then the reasons they give when objecting to the three groups should be similar. But, as Table 6 indicates, Los Angeles whites showed marked differences across groups. They were about twice as likely to make disparaging stereotypical comments about the characteristics of Latinos than about Asians or African Americans—a difference that is statistically significant. The nature of the stereotypes about the three groups also differed. Among those who negatively characterized Latinos, about equal percentages referred to beliefs about gangs, crime, and violence and poor property upkeep. Also mentioned to a lesser degree were concerns that Latinos are noisy and have too many children. The Los Angeles whites' stereotypes about African Americans were less variable—mainly related to African Americans not keeping up their property or having an "attitude" problem (a chip on their shoulders). Finally, negative stereotypes about Asians differed from those of both of the other groups: the modal response was that Asians are not friendly, stick to themselves, or are uninterested in integration. Los Angeles whites also had different perceptions of what a neighborhood would be like if it were integrated with blacks or Latinos versus Asians. Over twice as many perceived that neighborhoods with Latinos and blacks would suffer from high rates of crime, lower property values, and other negative qualities as those who felt this way about neighborhoods integrated with Asians. The problem with Asian neighborhoods, according to these whites, are "cultural differences"—particularly expressed as language concerns.
13. Boston also included a split-sample experiment comparing responses to integration with Asians, Latinos, and blacks using the "move out" question. When contemplating integration with blacks, 33% of the white respondents in Boston said they would leave; this figure dropped to 23% when the group arriving in their neighborhood was either Latino or Asian. The one distinction that the Boston whites made between Asians and Latinos was that they said they would be likely to move when they faced a smaller proportion of Latino neighbors compared with Asian neighbors.

Whites Who Say They'd Flee Table 6.


Reasons Why Los Angeles Whites Would1 Be Uncomfortable in an Integrated Neigbborbood Witb Black, Hispanic, i[>r Asian Neigbbors (Percentages) Black Neighbors

Neighborhood Racial Composition

Hispanic Neighbors

Asian Neighbors

/(Value .313 .010 .418 .635 .779 .165 .468 .000 .002 .012 .014 .439 .000 .155 .001 .342

Racial Reasons Traditional prejudice: racial hostility Traditional prejudice: negative characteristics of African Americans/Hispanics/Asians Prejudice as sense of group position Too Many (without negative perceptions) Don't want to be minority (without negative perceptions) Takeover Won't get along Race-Associated Reasons Characteristics of integrated neighborhoods Crime Other qualities of the neighborhood Property values Neutral Ethnocentrism Want to be with own kind Cultural differences Nonsubstantive Themes None of the above It depends Qualify the response Total n

12.2 30.9 6.5 12.2 6.5

26.5 32.7 5.1 10.2 12.2

13.6 39.5

13.6 13.6 12.3 17.3

43.9 30.9 25.9 15.1 6.5 12.9 11.5 25.2
7.2 139

41.8 23.5 28.6 12.2





3.1 98

7.4 81

Note: These results are for only those who said they would be uncomfortable in one of the neighborhoods. More than one reason could be coded for a respondent, so the totals sum to over 100%. In the fmal column,/> values arc based on a chi-square test of the relationship between the target group (African Americans/Hispanics/Asians) and mentioning a particular theme.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION During the late 1960s and 1970s, demographic analyses of residential segregation centered on the debate about whether it was white fiight or some other "natural mobility" process that drove neighborhood racial tumover. Recently, Crowder (2000:242) highlighted that an either-or perspective is unsupported by the data and that although "mobility decisions are shaped by a variety of individual and contextual level factors independent of size of the black population . . . local racial conditions remain a salient infiuence on the mobility of white householders after these other factors are taken into account." The first section of this article examined the characteristics of those who were most likely to state that they would participate in white flight—that is, that they would leave a neighborhood that was undergoing integration. To begin with, it is clear that location matters: Detroiters stood out as much more likely to say they would leave.'* This is an important finding, given that much of the research on this topic, until recently, has relied
14. The addition of the two dummy variables representing city improved the overall fit of the model (detailed results not shown).


Demography, Volume 39-Number 4, Novembej;2002

on data from Detroit (Farley et al. 1978, 1994). The current results suggest that racial succession is more likely and will happen more quickly in Detroit—a finding consistent with Lee et al.'s (1994) cross-city comparisons on actual patterns of racial succession. Indeed, when whites in Detroit were asked to explain their reasons, there were hints of the city's history in this regard. Additional analyses of the open-ended data (not shown) revealed that 1 in 10 Detroiters who said they would "fiee" pointed to either personal experience with racial tumover in their own or relatives' neighborhoods or to direct observations of declining property values, racial tumover, and/or neighborhood decline. This finding is significantly (p < .001) different from the findings for residents in Atlanta and Boston, where just 1 % referred to local experiences or observations. Consistent with what others have shown using the MCSUI data, but drawing on different dimensions of residential preferences (Charles 2000, 2001; Farley et al. 1994), the strongest predictor of white-fiight attitudes is whether or not a person holds negative stereotypical beliefs: whites who view blacks as having negative characteristics are much more likely to indicate they will leave an integrating neighborhood. This finding goes against assertions that race, per se, is not a factor in residential preferences (e.g., Harris 1999, 2001) and is consistent with Emerson, Yancey, and Chai's (2001) findings from a survey experiment that show that the proportion of African Americans in a neighborhood—even after race-associated characteristics are controlled for—has an independent effect on whites' assessments of neighborhoods. Finally, the respondents' educational attainment influences only the decision to leave or stay at the first sign of blacks; beyond that, it is not significant. This finding contradicts much research on racial attitudes, which has usually shown that education plays a strong and consistent role in predicting social distance from African Americans. These data suggest that education does not infiuence the desire to fiee an integrating neighborhood but does make respondents more tolerant of token integration. Respondents with different levels of education, however, differ in how they explain why they would leave, an issue I turn to now. Recently, the debate about white fiight and residential preferences in general has raised questions about the underlying motivations. The evidence is complex, and the results in this article highlight that complexity. To be sure, white-fiight attitudes are shaped, in part, by explicit racial prejudice. When directly asked to explain why they thought they would "flee," in addition to the small percentage of whites who explained that they did not like or trust African Americans and held negative stereotypes about blacks, a substantial percentage of whites expressed prejudice in the sense of group position by stating that they preferred not to be in a minority or preferred not to be around "so many" of another race. This finding is consistent with the findings of other studies that used different methods—although, in some cases, the same data as in this study—that have highlighted the importance of the group-position interpretation of prejudice (Bobo and Zubrinsky 1996; Charles 2000, 2001; Zubrinsky and Bobo 1996). An entirely neutral ethnocentric interpretation of residential preferences is also unsupported by the data, given that only a small proportion of whites explained their attitudes in terms that can be construed as a cultural explanation (Clark 1992), at least in relation to integration with blacks." When whites in Los Angeles were asked about living

15. Even some of the neutral ethnocentric reasoning can be construed as racial because the respondents who indicated a desire to be with their own people—people with whom they have something in common, not with "others" who are "so different"—may at least have implicitly expressed negative perceptions of the other group and attributed more desirable features to their own group. Indeed, as was noted in the text, many respondents who used such phrases as "I want to be with my own kind" quickly followed that remark with a negative characterization of African Americans or integrated neighborhoods. Some respondents who did not spontaneously explain their attraction to their "own group" in this way may have revealed such notions, if probed.

Whites Who Say They'd Flee


with Latinos and Asians, however, concerns about "cultural differences"—which were expressed mainly in terms of language differences—were salient. The most common explanations whites gave were race associated. Although this finding seems at first glance to be consistent with Harris's (1999, 2001) arguments, the analyses reported in this article highlight the problems with interpreting race-associated explanations as having little to do with the race of one's neighbors and more to do with what the neighborhoods are actually like. First, one racial and two race-associated themes can be construed as different versions—albeit more and less blatant ones—of negative racial stereotypes. The respondents stereotyped African Americans, the quality of their neighborhoods, and the prospects for dropping property values in integrated neighborhoods. Not only did these responses blur into one another—a single respondent might express all three—but it can be difficult to distinguish between, for example, a statement that African American neighborhoods have certain features and a statement that African Americans do certain things. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine if and how a respondent who stereotyped an integrated (African American) neighborhood could "explain" it, apart from assuming that it is the group (African Americans) that brings these features to the neighborhoods. In short, the distinction between negative stereotypes of African Americans and of African American neighborhoods may be entirely semantic. There are, however, clear differences among the respondents who used these different reasons. Negative characteristics of African Americans as a group were more likely to be mentioned by those with less education and those who also endorsed negative stereotypes on the closed-ended questions. Negative characteristics of neighborhoods were unrelated both to education and to the use of stereotypes. Finally, concems about property values were expressed most often by those with more education and those who denied the existence of group differences on the stereotype scale. One interpretation of the pattem of results is that the three types of stereotypes represent more and less blatant expressions of what are, nevertheless, fundamentally negative racial attitudes. Both the questions used to construct the stereotype scale and the spontaneous mentions of negative traits of African Americans in the open-ended question are blatantly racial responses. That the two are statistically related, then, is no surprise. By contrast, to say that integrated neighborhoods have certain undesirable features only implies that it is blacks' fault. And a reference to falling property values is even more subtle. Indeed, it was easy for the respondents who gave this answer to distance themselves from holding negative racial attitudes because the forces of economics and the ways of "society" could be blamed. Indeed, as one respondent put it, "Because it means the property values are going down. And I'm not prejudiced." In short, the respondents could express a concem about property values without feeling that they were racist. This finding is consistent with the finding that the respondents who scored the lowest on the stereotype scale were also more likely to give this answer. The relationship between education and the various stereotypical responses is also consistent with this interpretation. Previous research has shown that respondents with higher levels of education are both more susceptible to social desirability pressures against admitting to negative racial attitudes (Krysan 1998) and more skilled at articulating their racial group's interests in subtler ways (Jackman and Muha 1984). Thus, although the explicitly racial reasons (negative stereotypes of African Americans themselves) are more likely to be given by those with less education, it is the most subtle (and least obviously racial) stereotype about property values that is most likely to be given by those with more education. Somewhere in the middle are responses that mention other stereotypical features of neighborhoods, which show no relationship to education. In short, although education serves to generate more subtle "rational" racial responses, in the end, each of the reasons is an articulation of a racial stereotype. To be sure, these


Demography, Volume 39-Number 4, November 2002

stereotypes are embedded in a system of residential segregation that both emanates from and perpetuates these beliefs. As Yinger (1995:122) noted: [R]esidetitial segregation is one outcotne of a complex system in which prejudice, segregation, discrimination, and racial or ethnic economic disparities are simultaneously determined. Each of these phenomena influences the others. Because of their complexity, these relationships are difficult to study, but most scholars now recognize that racial and ethnic prejudice and discrimination are both causes and consequences of residential segregation. From a theoretical perspective, the interpretation of the race-associated reasons as a motivation for white-fiight attitudes is further complicated by the fact that, for white flight, it is the perception, not the reality, that is crucial. Indeed, the more subtle nature of the race-associated reasons makes them more insidious because they appear to be "rational" and not susceptible to the charge of racism. But the implications for holding these kinds of perceptions—or stereotypes—about the quality of integrating neighborhoods and their property values are neither nonracial nor purely a function of the correlates of the objective characteristics of these neighborhoods. Thus, Harris's (1999, 2001) assertions that certain residential preferences are not racialized because they are linked to neighborhood characteristics is problematic because what matters for white-fiight attitudes is not the reality of these neighborhood characteristics but, rather, whites' expectations about what will happen to such neighborhoods. As Lee et al. (1994) noted, it is the fears, risks, and threats that whites hold about neighborhoods that are integrating (or already integrated) that is important. Thus, although the perceptions may be grounded in subtle racial biases and are articulated in a seemingly benign race-associated fashion, they have potentially concrete and blatant implications: the perpetuation of racial residential segregation. To be sure, future studies are needed to investigate more directly the connection between attitudes about white fiight and subsequent mobility decisions and actual white fiight (Crowder 2000). For now, this study has moved along efforts to gain a more nuanced and complex understanding of the motivations underlying white-fiight attitudes, in particular, and racial residential preferences, in general.

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