American Sociological Association

The Spatial Proximity and Connectivity Method for Measuring and Analyzing Residential Segregation

In recent years, there has been increasing attention focused on the spatial dimensions of residential segregation—from the spatial arrangement of segregated neighborhoods to the geographic scale or relative size of segregated areas. However, the methods used to measure segregation do not incorporate features of the built environment, such as the road connectivity between locations or the physical barriers that divide groups. This paper introduces the spatial proximity and connectivity (SPC) method for measuring and analyzing segregation. The method addresses the limitations of current approaches by taking into account how the physical structure of the built environment affects the proximity and connectivity of locations. I describe the method and its application for studying segregation and spatial inequality more broadly, and I demonstrate one such application—analyzing the impact of physical barriers on residential segregation—with a stylized example and an empirical analysis of racial segregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The SPC method contributes to scholarship on residential segregation by capturing the effect of an important yet understudied mechanism of segregation—the connectivity, or physical barriers, between locations—on the level and spatial pattern of segregation, and it enables further consideration of the role of the built environment in segregation processes.

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Elizabeth Roberto





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