The Structure of Spatial Segregation


Ethnoracial residential segregation is a complex, multiscalar phenomenon with immense moral and economic costs. Modeling the structure and dynamics of segregation are pressing problems for sociology and urban planning, but existing methods have limitations. In this paper, we develop a suite of methods, grounded in information theory, for studying the spatial structure of segregation. We first advance existing profile and decomposition methods by posing two related regionalization methods, which allow for profile curves with non-constant spatial scale and decomposition analysis with non-arbitrary areal units. We then formulate a measure of local spatial scale, which may be used for both detailed, within-city analysis and intercity comparisons. These methods highlight detailed insights in the structure and dynamics of urban segregation that would be otherwise easy to miss or difficult to quantify. They are computational efficient; applicable to a broad range of study questions; and freely available in open-source software.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences