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Won't You be My Neighbor?

Camille Zubrinsky Charles

Publication Year: 2006

Los Angeles is a city of delicate racial and ethnic balance. As evidenced by the 1965 Watts violence, the 1992 Rodney King riots, and this year’s award-winning film Crash, the city’s myriad racial groups coexist uneasily together, often on the brink of confrontation. In fact, Los Angeles is highly segregated, with racial and ethnic groups clustered in homogeneous neighborhoods. These residential groupings have profound effects on the economic well-being and quality of life of residents, dictating which jobs they can access, which social networks they can tap in to, and which schools they attend. In Won’t You Be My Neighbor? sociologist Camille Zubrinsky Charles explores how modern racial attitudes shape and are shaped by the places in which people live. Using in-depth survey data and information from focus groups with members of L.A.’s largest racial and ethnic groups, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? explores why Los Angeles remains a segregated city. Charles finds that people of all backgrounds prefer both racial integration and a critical mass of same-race neighbors. When asked to reveal their preferred level of racial integration, people of all races show a clear and consistent order of preference, with whites considered the most highly desired neighbors and blacks the least desirable. This is even true among recent immigrants who have little experience with American race relations. Charles finds that these preferences, which are driven primarily by racial prejudice and minority-group fears of white hostility, taken together with financial considerations, strongly affect people’s decisions about where they live. Still, Charles offers reasons for optimism: over time and with increased exposure to other racial and ethnic groups, people show an increased willingness to live with neighbors of other races. In a racially and ethnically diverse city, segregated neighborhoods can foster distrust, reinforce stereotypes, and agitate inter-group tensions. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? zeroes in on segregated neighborhoods to provide a compelling examination of the way contemporary racial attitudes shape, and are shaped by, the places where we live.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation


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Title Page, Copyright

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About the Author

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p. vii


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pp. ix-xi

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Introduction: Or, Why I Love Mister Rogers

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pp. 1-5

My obsession with the racial composition of neighborhoods probably began when I was four years old. For much of my childhood (until I was fourteen), my mother and I were the only nonwhite people for miles around in the Ventura, California, neighborhood where I grew up. ...

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1. Los Angeles: A Window on the Future of the Nation

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pp. 6-38

Los Angeles is one of the most racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse cities in the world. The public schools offer instruction in 92 of the 224 identified languages spoken in the county. Restaurants span the cuisines of the world, including Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Pakistani, Russian...

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2. Theoretical Perspectives on the Dynamics of Racial Residential Segregation

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pp. 39-63

At the dawn of the twentieth century, W. E. B. Du Bois (1903/1990, 120–21) recognized the importance of neighborhoods—the “physical proximity of home and dwelling-places, the way in which neighborhoods group themselves, and [their] contiguity”—as primary locations for social...

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3. The Economics of Housing

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pp. 64-97

The striking differences in traditional measures of social class status presented in chapter 1 lead easily to the assumption that certain groups simply lack the financial resources of other groups and therefore cannot pay as much for housing. As such, racial residential segregation would be...

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4. A Racialized Housing Market?

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pp. 98-130

Race and race-related issues are a concern for most Americans, whether or not we are willing to say so openly and whether or not we are even consciously aware of these issues. Our concern is tied to both our own racial-group membership and our attitudes about and perceptions of...

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5. From Racial Attitudes to Neighborhood Racial Composition Preferences

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pp. 131-162

A variety of factors shape residential decisionmaking: cost and affordability, the quality of the housing stock, preferences for particular dwelling amenities, proximity to work or other important destinations, stage in the life course, the quality of the public schools (Ellen 2000; Galster 1988). ...

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6. Race and Class Aligned

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pp. 163-189

The previous chapters offer compelling evidence that racial prejudice is implicated in patterns of neighborhood segregation. Equally compelling is evidence that mere in-group preferences and (except for Asians) efforts to avoid coresidence with groups perceived as relatively disadvantaged...


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pp. 190-197


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pp. 199-217


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pp. 219-236


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pp. 237-246

E-ISBN-13: 9781610441162
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871541628
Print-ISBN-10: 0871541629

Page Count: 128
Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 300523923
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Won't You be My Neighbor?

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Discrimination in housing -- United States.
  • Ethnic neighborhoods -- United States.
  • Segregation -- United States.
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