COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Discrimination and prejudice against minorities remains the best explanation for racial housing segregation in U.S. metropolitan areas, a new study in Los Angeles suggests.

Other common explanations for segregation -- that racial groups choose to live together or that minorities can't afford to buy houses or rent apartments in white neighborhoods -- were not supported by the study.

The research also found that, among minority groups, Blacks suffered the greatest amount of discrimination and prejudice. White hostility against Blacks and institutional discrimination against Black homebuyers were some of the contributing factors to segregation.

"There have been many reasons given as to why American cities are segregated, but racial prejudice and discrimination still provide the best answer given the evidence," said Camille Zubrinsky, co-author of the study and assistant professor of

sociology at Ohio State University.

The study used data from the 1993-94 Los Angeles Survey of Urban Inequality, which involved in-depth, face-to-face interviews with 4,025 residents of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The study included interviews with whites, Blacks, Latinos and Asians.

Zubrinsky conducted the study with Lawrence Bobo, a sociologist at UCLA. Their results will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Social Science Research.

The results provide strong evidence that segregation isn't occurring because minorities -- particularly Blacks -- don't have the money to live in white neighborhoods, Zubrinsky said.

Even though Blacks tend to earn less than whites, many Black homeowners in the study were making mortgage payments that would allow them to live in desirable white neighborhoods, she said.

For example, more than one-third of Blacks surveyed (38 percent) had mortgage payments between $600 and $1,400 a month, similar to the 43 percent of whites studied. About one-half of Asians and Latinos studied had mortgage payments in this range.

Similar results occurred among renters: the average monthly rent of Blacks surveyed was only $49 less than that of whites.

"Racial segregation isn't occurring because Blacks and Latinos are too poor to live with whites," she said.

The study also found that people liked to live in neighborhoods where their own race was the majority, but that wasn't the driving force behind segregation, according to Zubrinsky. "All groups appear to want both integration and a significant number of same- race neighbors," she said.

Some scholars have argued that Blacks themselves are most responsible for segregation because they want to live in Black- dominated neighborhoods. But this study showed that Blacks were most likely of all ethnic groups to want to live in an integrated neighborhood. Blacks surveyed said their ideal neighborhood would have between 27 percent and 50 percent non-Blacks.

Whites were also relatively comfortable with the idea of integrated neighborhoods. Slightly more than half said they would be comfortable living in a neighborhood where 50 percent of the residents were Black.

This statistic, while encouraging on the face, also shows the severe prejudice against Blacks, Zubrinsky said. For example, while 57 percent of whites said they would feel comfortable in a half-Black neighborhood, 15 percent more (72 percent) would feel comfortable living in a neighborhood that was half-Latino. And 80 percent of whites would feel comfortable in a neighborhood that was half-Asian.

"This shows that there is a rank order among minority groups, with Blacks on the bottom," she said. "Blacks are seen as the least desirable neighbors and this is probably an important reason for the lack of integration in Los Angeles."

Other evidence of discrimination and prejudice against Blacks was seen in the study. All ethnic groups surveyed, including whites, agreed that Blacks faced the greatest odds of any group of encountering discrimination in the housing market. Black neighborhoods, even if relatively affluent, were rated as less desirable than neighborhoods dominated by other ethnic groups, Zubrinsky noted.

When asked how various neighborhoods would react to a minority family moving in, the respondents agreed that Blacks would face the most hostility. "Blacks are perceived -- by themselves and others -- as the group most likely to upset the existing residents of almost any community," she said. "This certainly suggests that Blacks wouldn't seek housing in many areas of the city."

This survey of Los Angeles residents is part of the Multi- City Study of Urban Inequality, funded by the Ford Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Similar surveys were done in Detroit, Atlanta, and Boston. Results from the Detroit survey, the only other one with published results so far, yield similar findings, Zubrinsky said.

"The results from the surveys are not surprising, but they're still disappointing," she said. "There's still quite a bit of prejudice and discrimination that's preventing integration in our cities."

Contact: Camille Zubrinsky, (614) 292-1722; Czubrin+@osu.edu

Written by Jeff Grabmeier, (614) 292-8457; Grabmeier.1@osu.edu

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