Residential segregation on America’s urban fringe
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The urban fringe—the portion of metropolitan and micropolitan areas located outside of cities—is home to some of the most striking examples of residential segregation in the United States. It is a place of both considerable exclusivity and extreme deprivation. Although the fringe is home to a disproportionate share of whites and the affluent, a pattern that developed after decades of residential flight from cities in order to escape the perceived ills of urban living, the fringe is also home to millions of poor and minority residents who live in highly segregated enclaves suffering from severe housing and infrastructure inadequacies. This research examines the causes of these divergent patterns of residential segregation along the urban fringe and their implications for policy and planning in pursuit of fair housing. Three factors are examined in detail: jurisdictional fragmentation, land use regulation, and municipal annexation. Jurisdictional fragmentation—the proliferation of cities and the redistribution of residents among them—has facilitated the isolation of whites and the wealthy in smaller cities where they can exercise greater control over local policy decisions. Broad local authority over land use regulation, granted to local governments by the states in which they reside, has given rise to exclusionary zoning as a means of maintaining racial and class disparities between the fringe and neighboring cities. At the same time, local authority over land use has largely failed to prevent the proliferation of low-income communities characterized by poor quality housing and ailing or non-existent infrastructure throughout the urban fringe. Lastly, direct democratic control over municipal annexation has facilitated the exclusion of black neighborhoods by cities and resistance by white neighborhoods to the threat of annexation.