Easterly challenges Schelling tipping point model

William Easterly has tested Schelling’s racial tipping point model and found it lacking:

The Schelling model of a “tipping point” in racial segregation, in which whites flee a neighborhood once a threshold of nonwhites is reached, is a canonical model of strategic interdependence. The idea of “tipping” explaining segregation is widely accepted in the academic literature and popular media. I use census tract data for metropolitan areas of the US from 1970 to 2000 to test the predictions of the Schelling model and find that this particular model of strategic interaction largely fails the tests. There is more “white flight” out of neighborhoods with a high initial share of whites than out of more racially mixed neighborhoods.

Looks like the theme for today is unpacking ideas we often take for granted.  This is one of Schelling’s models I had never questioned, primarily because of his well-deserved reputation.  One study doesn’t necessarily invalidate the model, but Easterly also enjoys a strong reputation, and 30 years of census data are pretty compelling.  I hope this sparks some vigorous discussion.

[HT: Tyler Cowen]

MORE:  From a frequent reader:

I did not click thru to buy Easterly’s paper, but I wonder if there is something hidden here that draws on Putnam’s work on social capital (“Bowling Alone”), particularly over the period Bill has analyzed. If enough of your neighbors flee, you don’t feel it’s your neighborhood anymore, so you leave, too. Housing prices fall, and as racial Read Morecovenants fall to legal challenges, upwardly mobile new buyers move in. A two-stage process might not invalidate the tipping point model as **the** explanatory variable, just hide it.

4 responses to “Easterly challenges Schelling tipping point model

  1. Pingback: Week in Public Organizations, 22Jun2009 « PublicOrgTheory

  2. I’m only just starting the get to grips with Schellings work. When listening to Ben Polak’s description of the ‘model’, Schelling is seems to be wanting to highlight the notion that just because their is segregation in many societies, it might not be because people wish to live in this. And that all these ‘game theory’ type models can’t cotain all the possible reasons/motivations for people moving. So i think what i’m saying is give the guy a break, it’s just a model. Do you think it’s possilbe to have a theory, which is not exact, but helps us explore possibilities?

  3. Pingback: Evil empire « Entitled to an Opinion

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