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Poverty, Segregation, and Race Riots: 1960 to 1993

Susan Olzak, Suzanne Shanahan and Elizabeth H. McEneaney
American Sociological Review
Vol. 61, No. 4 (Aug., 1996), pp. 590-613
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2096395
Page Count: 24
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Poverty, Segregation, and Race Riots: 1960 to 1993
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Abstract

We test arguments that residential segregation incites racial unrest using event-histories of 154 race riots in 1960 to 1993 in 55 of the largest SMSAs in the United States. We argue that, although racial deprivation and residential segregation may reinforce identification with racial boundaries and awareness of racial grievances, these problems do not alone spark racial conflict. Instead, we find that a combination of high levels of racial segregation followed by interracial contact generates racial competition, which in turn increases the rate of ethnic and racial unrest. Our results show that in SMSAs where residential contact between African Americans and Whites increases, the rate of race riots increases significantly. A prior history of racial turmoil increases the likelihood of another race riot; the results suggest that the rate of race riots in a metropolitan area depends nonmonotonically on the number of previous riots in that region. These effects remain potent in models controlling for population size, income disparity, ethnic diversity, Black poverty rate, unemployment, and minority composition.

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