Middle-class black and white homeowners on Long Island: The impact of social networks on their residential outcomes

Jeanne Ellen Kimpel, Fordham University


This study examines the role of social networks during the housing search process for middle-class blacks and whites on Long Island, NY. The main arguments put forth in previous research to explain racial residential segregation in the U.S. include: socioeconomic differences, preferences, racial prejudice and housing-market discrimination. However, this study explores a new approach to examining residential segregation through the application of social network theory.This research asks three main questions: 1) In what ways do social networks influence the housing search process; 2) Are social networks a mechanism through which residential segregation is perpetuated; and, 3) Is the housing search a mechanism through which residential segregation is perpetuated. The methods of this study include: 32 in-depth interviews of middle-class, and upper-middle-class black and white homeowners from Long Island who were selected from two local colleges where they were employed,and an analysis of neighborhood characteristics at the census-tract level. The main findings of this study revealed two mechanisms through which residential segregation is perpetuated: 1) social networks; and, 2) housing search. The study highlights the racial differences in the search strategies and experiences of house-seekers confirming that such factors as affordability, discrimination, down payment assistance, and quality of schools, influence the housing search, and the residential outcomes of both racial groups in different ways. Another important finding revealed thatstrong and racially homogenous ties with family, friends, and past neighborhood connections helped maintain whites' dominant position in majority white neighborhoods and subsequently, perpetuate segregation. Further evidence reveals thatthe housing search is embedded in racially segregated networks for both racial groups. For example, race-matching to realtors results in middle-class whites living in highly segregated neighborhoods, gaining more benefits. Alternatively, race-matching to realtors for middle-class blacks results in more blacks living in majority black or mostly minority neighborhoods, reducing their benefits. This study contributes to the literature on residential segregation, housing search and social networks.

Subject Area

African American Studies|Black studies|Social structure|Demography

Recommended Citation

Kimpel, Jeanne Ellen, "Middle-class black and white homeowners on Long Island: The impact of social networks on their residential outcomes" (2014). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3630160.