How Segregated Are the Affluent? Conceptual and Measurement Problems in Research on Spatial Inequality

Rachel E. Dwyer, Ohio State University

The residential segregation of the affluent has received much less attention than racial segregation and the isolation of the poor in the United States. Yet the spatial concentration of privilege is as important to the production and reproduction of inequality as is the concentration of disadvantage. In this paper I argue that our knowledge of spatial inequality is limited by inattention to processes at the top of the class structure, with both theoretical and empirical gaps in understanding. I propose a theoretical framework for conceptualizing affluence that draws on the rich tradition of stratification research, especially the Weberian concept of social closure. I critique existing measures of affluence and propose alternatives, analyzing their advantages and disadvantages. I conclude that just as for poverty, greater sophistication in thinking about the affluent will improve our capacity to capture all the ways that spatial inequality structures life chances.

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Presented in Poster Session 6