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Realizing racial and ethnic neighborhood preferences? exploring the mismatches between what people want, where they search, and where they live
The housing search process is an overlooked mechanism in the scholarly research that seeks to understand the causes of persistent racial residential segregation in the United States. Past research has explored in detail the preferences people hold in terms of the racial and ethnic composition of their neighborhoods, and more recently some have also examined the correspondence between racial and ethnic neighborhood preferences and current neighborhood racial/ethnic composition. But an intermediate stage—the racial/ethnic composition of where people search—has not been investigated. We analyze a subsample (n = 382) from the 2004–2005 Chicago Area Study to demonstrate the value of systematically studying the matches—or mismatches—between preferences, search locations, and neighborhood outcomes. We find that for whites, not only their current neighborhoods but also the neighborhoods in which they search for housing have larger percentages of whites than they say they prefer. In contrast, blacks—and to a lesser extent Latinos— search in neighborhoods that correspond to their preferences, but reside in neighborhoods with a larger percentage own group. Logistic regression analyses reveal that mismatches are associated with both a lack of information and inadequate finances, but also may be due to socially desirable responding for whites in particular. Our results provide suggestive evidence of the importance of unpacking the search process more generally and draw attention to what are likely to be productive new future data collection efforts as well as an area potentially ripe for policy interventions.