19 Sep 2022


Residential Segregation and Political Economy

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Political economy refers to a social science branch, which studies the correlation between people and society as well as between the state and markets through a wide range of methods and tools that are borrowed from sociology, political science, and economics (Balaam and Veseth, 2016). Political economy is a derivative of a Greek term, polis, which means state or city, and oikomos, which means an individual that manages a state or a household. Therefore, political economy could be understood as being the study of the manner in which a nation-the household of the public-is governed or managed, considering both the economic and political factors (Balaam and Veseth, 2016). 

Political economy has a close relationship with residential segregation. The latter term relates to a physical differentiation of groups of people into distinct neighborhoods. It could also be defined as a system of segregation, which sorts the populace groups into distinct contexts of neighborhood as well as shapes the environment of living at neighborhood levels (Massey, 2001). Therefore, because political economy studies the way households are managed or governed with respect to economic and political factors, it studies the way such factors contribute to the separation of groups of people within the population of a given nation into conditions of living. The issue of ethnic and racial patterns of segregation has been a topic of study by social scientists for long because of a close relationship between the spatial position of a group within society and its socioeconomic status (Massey, 2001). There is an uneven distribution of resources and opportunities in space; some neighborhoods are with safer streets, better schools, better services, higher home values, and more supportive peer conditions compared to others. Individuals and families generally move to have an access to such benefits as they improve in their socioeconomic statuses. While doing so, such people seek to transform their socioeconomic achievements in the past into better residential circumstances, which yields tangible and immediate benefits, which will enhance their future chances of social mobility through the provision of greater access to resources that are residentially determined (Massey, 2001). 

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Throughout the history of the US, ethnic and racial groups arriving in the nation for their first time find themselves settling within enclaves that are located close to urban cores, in regions of old housing, mixed land usage, decreased or low socioeconomic statuses, and poor services (Boustan, 2013). As such groups build up time within the city, however, it is understood that they prefer to move out of such areas into those that offer improved conditions and amenities since their rise in their socioeconomic statuses, which results in their progressive spatial incorporation into the rest of the society. A number of studies have established that most of the African Americans that live in the segregated metropolitan regions have lower levels of educational attainment as well as earnings compared those that live in the more integrated regions (Boustan, 2013). Such a difference seems to be a reflection of the causal effect of residential segregation on economic metrics and not the perception that residents belonging to the White race are more likely to be found from those of the Blacks (Boustan, 2013). 

Residential segregation is also related to political efficacy, which is another term used in the study of political behavior. In definitive terms, political efficacy refers to a term utilized in political discussion and theory to denote the level of faith that individuals feel they have on their government (Ananat and Washington, 2009). In this respect, low political efficacy will mean that individuals have little faith in their government, which also means that such people feel that their actions have little impact on their leaders and vice versa. This issue, therefore, has a direct relationship with residential segregation; the political class tends to focus more on one group of people than it does to another. In the US, most of the political debate have been on the middle class residents, and politicians have used this group of people as their campaign tool (Ananat and Washington, 2009). It means, therefore, that the middle class appears to have a higher political efficacy than does the lower class. People living in concentrated regions, the poorest in the society, feel that the government does little to cater for their needs, which insinuates a low political efficacy among this group of people (Pew Research Center, 2016). On the contrary, the focus of the political class on the middle class implies that this group has a stronger influence on the rulers, hence a higher political efficacy. 

In conclusion, residential segregation relates to political economy since the latter describes the manner in which a nation-the household of the public-is governed or managed, considering both the economic and political factors, which means that political factors can result in the sorting of groups of people according to the conditions of their neighborhood. Some regions have a better standard of living compared to others, and this factor determines the political efficacy of residents of such regions. Specifically, individuals living in concentrated poverty neighborhoods have a lower political efficacy than those living in more integrated neighborhoods. Such patterns of living and levels of political efficacy indicate the real effect of political economy and residential segregation on the socioeconomic statuses of individuals and households. 


Ananat, E. O., & Washington, E. (2009). Segregation and Black political efficacy.  Journal of Public Economics 93 (5), 807-822. 

Balaam, D., & Veseth, M. (2016). political economy . Retrieved 21 July 2017, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/political-economy 

Boustan, L. P. (2013). Racial residential segregation in American cities (No. w19045). National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved July 21, 2017 from http://www.econ.ucla.edu/lboustan/research_pdfs/research13_handbook.pdf 

Massey, D. S. (2001). Residential segregation and neighborhood conditions in US metropolitan areas.  America becoming: Racial trends and their consequences 1 (1), 391-434. 

Pew Research Center (2016). Demographic trends and economic well-being . Retrieved 21 July 2017, from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2016/06/27/1-demographic-trends-and-economic-well-being/ 

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