Visualizing Segregation

Instructor: Benjamin Forest, Department of Geography

Project: Residential racial and ethnic segregation in American cities has evolved and persisted for well over 100 years. Census data provide a rich source of information about demographic patterns, but it is difficult to comprehend these patterns without maps and other visual aids. The Visualizing Segregation website includes several resources to help students understand current patterns of housing segregation, and some of the dynamics that produce and maintain these patterns.

The site features a java-based segregation simulator that demonstrates different dynamics of segregation based on residential preference and aversion. Students can set preferences and aversions based on similarity and dissimilarity of neighbors, and can create zones of exclusivity. The simulator allows students to change the parameters of the model to visualize the effects that these changes have on residential patterns. Moreover, the simulator calculates three common measures of residential segregation (the index of dissimilarity, an isolation index, and an entropy index) to allow students to compare the visual patterns of segregation with quantitative measures.

We are planning to add a separate web application which will enable students to use 2000 Census population data to visualize and analyze current patterns of racial and ethnic segregation. Students will be able to select groups of Census blocks or tracts, to create thematic maps of these areas, and to calculate the same three indices of segregation used in the segregation simulator.

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Posted in 2000-2004 Projects, 2003 Projects, Social Sciences