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Work Together, Live Apart? Geographies of Racial and Ethnic Segregation at Home and at Work

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When scholars map the urban geography of racial and ethnic segregation, they privilege the time when people are at home. When workers commute, however, the tract of residence of one group often becomes the tract of employment of others. It follows that an exclusive focus on the residential geographies of racial groups erases the presence of others who work in those neighborhoods. Not only does this analytical orientation create a false impression of a city's racialized spaces as fixed, but it also misleadingly characterizes neighborhoods as the domain of those who live, rather than work, in them. In addressing this oversight, the study compares levels of residential and work tract segregation for native-born and immigrant groups in a large U.S. metropolitan area, Los Angeles. The analysis reveals that segregation by work tract is considerably lower than by residential tract, suggesting more intergroup interaction takes place during working hours than at home. The difference in segregation between residence and work is very large in the case of native-born whites and Mexican immigrants. These two groups maintain substantially different residential geographies but are quite likely to work in the same tracts. Such work tract complementarities are gender sensitive; they are much more likely between native-born white and Mexican men than between women of these groups. This gendered difference holds across all groups, with men more likely to work in tracts with men from other groups than women with women from other groups. The study offers new perspective on diurnal shifts in urban racial segregation. We conclude by speculating that reduced segregation at workplaces factors into recent increases in rates of interracial partnering, which may, in turn, ultimately leverage change in residential segregation.
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Keywords: gender; home; race; segregation; work

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Washington 2: Dartmouth College 3: University of Chicago

Publication date: 2004-09-01

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