“Because the World Consists of Everybody”: Parents’ Understandings of Neighborhood Diversity

Jennifer Darrah-Okike, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Hope Harvey , Cornell University
Kelley Fong, Harvard University

Previous research, primarily using survey data, highlights neighborhood racial composition preferences as one contributor to residential segregation. However, we know little about how individuals, especially parents, understand neighborhood composition. We examine this question using in-depth interview data from 156 Black, White, and Hispanic parents in two metropolitan areas. Prior research has mostly focused on in-group attraction, out-group avoidance, and perceived associations between race and status. However, we find that many parents expressed a desire for racially/ethnically mixed neighborhoods. Parents conceptualized diversity as beneficial for children’s development: cultivating skills and comfort interacting with racial/ethnic others, teaching tolerance, and providing cultural enrichment. Black and Hispanic parents also recognized diversity as a marker of relative neighborhood advantage. While parents' beliefs about the value of diversity were rarely a primary motivation for residential choices, they reveal the reach of discourse on the value of diversity and suggest a potential opportunity to advance residential de-segregation.

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 Presented in Session 180. Neighborhood and School Diversity: Drivers and Outcomes