WHITE ESTIMATES OF MINORITY PRESENCE IN THREE NEW YORK CITY NEIGHBORHOODS

MICHAEL JOHN LAVELLE, Fordham University

Abstract

The study establishes a theoretical link between two longstanding approaches to the phenomenon of racial succession. One approach, based on a conceptualization called the tipping point, contends that the majority of white residents will be willing to accept a certain proportion of minority households in their neighborhood, but that once this tolerance limit is exceeded, they will move out. The second approach explains the invasion-succession sequence in terms of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Within this formulation, the decision to remain in the neighborhood or to move out, is based not so much on present conditions but on projections of future racial composition.^ Since local residents generally have no access to accurate information regarding the actual proportion minority in their neighborhood, to the extent that this is a matter of concern, they are forced to rely on subjective estimates of this figure. Within the tipping point approach, the critical variable may be actual proportion minority from a theoretical perspective, but in operational terms this inevitably reduces to perceptions, or subjective estimates of current minority presence. ^ A random digit dialing telephone survey was conducted during June and July, 1978. Questionnaires were administered to samples of residents in each of three New York City neighborhoods. In all 1,159 interviews were completed. Survey results supported the proposition that while projections of future minority representation do indeed strongly influence the decision to move, the single most important factor explaining future projections is simply present perceptions, or subjective estimates of current minority presence. Strong correlations were found between estimates of current minority presence and projections of future minority representation in each of the three study neighborhoods.^ While the relationship between estimates and projections is expected to hold up for all neighborhoods, the case of greatest interest was judged to be that in which residents' projections are based on misperceptions, or more specifically, on exaggerated estimates of current minority presence. Survey results provided some support for the claim that at least within neighborhoods possessing certain identifiable characteristics, residents are likely to overestimate the level of current minority presence. These neighborhood characteristics include recent minority entry, being situated close to areas with larger concentrations of minority members, high residential density, and proximity to a public junior high or high school. ^ Preliminary support was also gained for the proposition that certain areas with relatively large concentrations of miniority members can develop "bad reputations" which might inhibit the ability of neighborhoods within such areas to attract new white residents.^ A major finding, not predicted in advance of data collection, was that all of the research hypotheses which were developed specifically for white populations, were found to describe outcomes among minority respondents with equal or greater accuracy. ^

Subject Area

Demography

Recommended Citation

LAVELLE, MICHAEL JOHN, "WHITE ESTIMATES OF MINORITY PRESENCE IN THREE NEW YORK CITY NEIGHBORHOODS" (1981). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8123556.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8123556

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