The Enduring Significance of Race in Mixed-Income Developments


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

While public housing reforms seek to address poverty among what is a predominantly African-American population, there has been little explicit attention given to the signance of race in the formation of new mixed-income communities. Indeed, the policy framing of these efforts has focused on economic integration and has been essentially silent about racial integration. In this article, we examine whether and how race remains relevant to the everyday life and experiences of residents in mixed-income developments. Drawing on a multiyear research study of three mixed-income developments in Chicago, we examine the nature of interracial and intraracial social dynamics within these (still) predominantly African-American neighborhoods. Consistent with critical race theory, we find that institutionalized notions of “ghetto culture” continue to inhere in the attitudes of many higher-income, nonblack homeowners and professionals in these contexts, and that the relative privilege and power these groups have to establish and enforce norms, policies, and rules generate and reproduce inequality fundamentally grounded in race. Consistent with secondary marginalization theory, we also find that the increasing economic diversity and widening cleavages among Blacks living in these contexts generate complex intraracial social dynamics where relocated public housing residents and other low-income Black renters experience marginalization from both black and nonblack neighbors. We argue that because the design of mixed-income development policy frames residents’ social identities primarily along the lines of income and housing tenure rather than race, it ignores what we find to be the enduring, if nuanced and complex, significance of race.

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