Owens, Ann. 2020. “Unequal Opportunity: School and Neighborhood Segregation in the U.S.”. Race and Social Problems 12 (1):29-41. Publisher's VersionAbstract
School and neighborhood segregation are intertwined in complex ways. Schools reflect segregated neighborhoods, and school considerations reinforce neighborhood segregation. Over the past 25 years, racial segregation in neighborhoods and schools has slightly declined in terms of sorting, though children remain racially isolated in their neighborhoods and schools. Income segregation between schools, school districts, and neighborhoods has increased among children. Recent educational policy and demographic changes may break the link between neighborhood and school segregation. As population diversity increases, the proliferation of school choice leads schools and neighborhoods to resemble one another less, with schools becoming more segregated than their local neighborhoods. Regardless of the complicated and changing ways neighborhood and school segregation shape and reshape one another, segregation in both contexts remains high in the twenty-first century. Drawing on administrative data, I provide a quantitative portrait of the schools and neighborhoods of children from different racial/ethnic groups in 2015, documenting stark inequalities in these contexts. I conclude with a discussion of why segregation matters, what can be done about it, and why something must be done.
Owens, Ann. 2020. “Segregation by Household Composition and Income across Multiple Spatial Scales”. Pp. 239-253 in Handbook on Urban Segregation, edited by Sako Musterd. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.Abstract
Households’ preferences, constraints, and resources shape residential segregation patterns. These factors vary according to their demographic features, including the composition of the household. Drawing on U.S. Census and American Community Survey data, I estimate segregation of households with and without children between neighborhoods, places, and cities and suburbs in the 100 most populous metropolitan areas in the US from 1990 to 2014. Households with and without children became less segregated and the city-suburban divide in their location weakened over time. I then examine income segregation among households with and without children among these same three geographies. Income segregation is higher and increased more among households with children, and high- and low-income parents are increasingly separating across municipalities. However, high- and low-income households with children are segregating more between suburbs, not between cities and suburbs. Together, these analyses reveal how household demography shapes residential sorting within and between places
Owens, Ann. 2019. “Building Inequality: Housing Segregation and Income Segregaton”. Sociological Science 6497-525. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This article foregrounds housing in the study of residential segregation. The spatial configuration of housing determines the housing opportunities in each neighborhood, the backdrop against which households’ resources, preferences, and constraints play out. I use census and American Community Survey data to provide the first evidence of the extent of housing segregation by type and by cost at multiple geographic scales in large metropolitan areas in the United States from 1990 to 2014. Segregation between single- and multifamily homes and renter- and owner-occupied homes increased in most metropolitan areas, whereas segregation by cost declined. Housing segregation varies among metropolitan areas, across geographic scales, and over time, with consequences for income segregation. Income segregation is markedly higher when and where housing segregation is greater. As long as housing opportunities remain segregated, residential segregation will change little, with urgent implications for urban and housing policy makers.
Bischoff, Kendra, and Ann Owens. 2019. “The Segregation of Opportunity: Social and Financial Resources in the Educational Contexts of Lower- and Higher-Income Children, 1990-2014”. Demography 56 (5):1635-1664. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This article provides a rich longitudinal portrait of the financial and social resources available in the school districts of high- and low-income students in the United States from 1990 to 2014. Combining multiple publicly available data sources for most school districts in the United States, we document levels and gaps in school district financial resources—total per-pupil expenditures—and social resources—local rates of adult educational attainment, family structure, and adult unemployment—available to the average public school student at a variety of income levels over time. In addition to using eligibility for the National School Lunch Program as a blunt measure of student income, we estimate resource inequalities between income deciles to analyze resource gaps between affluent and poor children. We then examine the relationship between income segregation and resource gaps between the school districts of high- and low-income children. In previous work, the social context of schooling has been a theoretical but unmeasured mechanism through which income segregation may operate to create unequal opportunities for children. Our results show large and, in some cases, growing social resource gaps in the districts of high- and low-income students nationally and provide evidence that these gaps are exacerbated by income segregation. Conversely, per-pupil funding became more compensatory between high- and low-income students’ school districts over this period, especially in highly segregated states. However, there are early signs of reversal in this trend. The results provide evidence that school finance reforms have been somewhat effective in reducing the consequences of income segregation on funding inequities, while inequalities in the social context of schooling continue to grow.
Levy, Brian, Ann Owens, and Robert J. Sampson. 2019. “The Varying Effects of Neighborhood Disadvantage on College Graduation: Moderating and Mediating Mechanisms”. Sociology of Education 92 (3):269-292. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This study estimates the effect of neighborhood disadvantage on bachelor’s degree attainment with data from a long-term follow-up of the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods. We focus on heterogeneous effects by race and class as well as individual and neighborhood mechanisms that might explain observed patterns, including parents’ educational expectations, collective efficacy, social relationships, and neighborhood violence. Using newly developed methods for estimating longitudinal treatment effects, we find that cumulative neighborhood disadvantage in adolescence is strongly associated with lower bachelor’s attainment among high-income blacks and Latinos. We find no effect for whites and at most a modest effect among low- and middle-income blacks/Latinos. A sensitivity analysis suggests that the estimated effect for high-income blacks/Latinos is plausibly causal. These results support an advantage-leveling model of neighborhood effects and add important nuance for research considering how and for whom neighborhoods influence life chances.
Owens, Ann, and Jennifer Candipan. 2019. “Social and Spatial Inequalities of Educational Opportunity: A Portrait of Schools Serving High- and Low-Income Neighbourhoods in US Metropolitan Areas”. Urban Studies 56 (15):3178-3197. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Neighbourhoods and schools are both important contexts for children’s wellbeing. While often posited, little evidence documents inequalities in schools serving high- and low-income neighbourhoods. In this article, we use geospatial techniques to combine five administrative data sets to examine the characteristics of local public schools serving high- and low-income neighbourhoods in US metropolitan areas in 2013–2014. We find that high-income neighbourhoods are served by schools with greater social, financial, and instructional resources and greater student achievement than schools serving low-income neighbourhoods. Moreover, when metropolitan neighbourhoods are highly segregated by income, these inequalities are exacerbated. Our results demonstrate the link between neighbourhood and school disadvantage, with implications for policymakers concerned about social mobility and inequality.
Owens, Ann, and Jennifer Candipan. 2019. “Racial/Ethnic Transition and Hierarchy among Ascending Neighborhoods.”. Urban Affairs Review 55 (6):1550-1578. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This article examines the racial/ethnic population dynamics of ascending neighborhoods—those experiencing socioeconomic growth. Drawing on Census and American Community Survey data from 1990 to 2010, we first explore whether changes in racial/ethnic composition occur alongside ascent. We find that, while most neighborhoods’ racial/ethnic composition does not dramatically change during this period, neighborhoods that experienced ascent are much more likely to transition from majority-minority to mixed race or predominantly White than nonascending neighborhoods. Then, we use microdata to analyze whether two potential drivers of ascent, the in-migration of higher-socioeconomic status (SES) households and changes in the fortunes of long-term residents, are racially/ethnically stratified. We argue that the process of neighborhood socioeconomic ascent perpetuates neighborhood racial/ethnic hierarchy. While most Black and Hispanic neighborhoods remain majority-minority, those that ascend are more likely to experience a succession of high-SES White residents replacing minority residents.
Reardon, Sean F., Kendra Bischoff, Ann Owens, and Joseph B. Townsend. 2018. “Has Income Segregation Really Increased? Bias and Bias Correction in Sample-Based Segregation Estimates”. Demography 55 (6):2129-2160. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Several recent studies have concluded that residential segregation by income in the United States has increased in the decades since 1970, including a significant increase after 2000. Income segregation measures, however, are biased upward when based on sample data. This is a potential concern because the sampling rate of the American Community Survey (ACS)—from which post-2000 income segregation estimates are constructed—was lower than that of the earlier decennial censuses. Thus, the apparent increase in income segregation post-2000 may simply reflect larger upward bias in the estimates from the ACS, and the estimated trend may therefore be inaccurate. In this study, we first derive formulas describing the approximate sampling bias in two measures of segregation. Next, using Monte Carlo simulations, we show that the bias-corrected estimators eliminate virtually all of the bias in segregation estimates in most cases of practical interest, although the correction fails to eliminate bias in some cases when the population is unevenly distributed among geographic units and the average within-unit samples are very small. We then use the bias-corrected estimators to produce unbiased estimates of the trends in income segregation over the last four decades in large U.S. metropolitan areas. Using these corrected estimates, we replicate the central analyses in four prior studies on income segregation. We find that the primary conclusions from these studies remain unchanged, although the true increase in income segregation among families after 2000 was only half as large as that reported in earlier work. Despite this revision, our replications confirm that income segregation has increased sharply in recent decades among families with children and that income inequality is a strong and consistent predictor of income segregation.
Owens, Ann. 2018. “Income Segregation between School Districts and Inequality in Students' Achievement.”. Sociology of Education 91 (1):1-27. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Large achievement gaps exist between high- and low-income students and between black and white students. This article explores one explanation for such gaps: income segregation between school districts, which creates inequality in the economic and social resources available in advantaged and disadvantaged students’ school contexts. Drawing on national data, I find that the income achievement gap is larger in highly segregated metropolitan areas. This is due mainly to high-income students performing better, rather than low-income children performing worse, in more-segregated places. Income segregation between districts also contributes to the racial achievement gap, largely because white students perform better in more economically segregated places. Descriptive portraits of the school districts of high- and low-income students show that income segregation creates affluent districts for high-income students while changing the contexts of low-income students negligibly. Considering income and race jointly, I find that only high-income white families live in the affluent districts created by income segregation; black families with identically high incomes live in districts more similar to those of low-income white families. My results demonstrate that the spatial inequalities created by income segregation between school districts contribute to achievement gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students, with implications for future research and policy.
Owens, Ann. 2017. “Racial Residential Segregation of School-Age Children and Adults and the Role of Schooling as a Segregating Force”. RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 3 (2):63-80. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Neighborhoods are critical contexts for children’s well-being, but differences in neighborhood inequality among children and adults are understudied. I document racial segregation between neighborhoods among school-age children and adults in 2000 and 2010 and find that though the racial composition of children’s and adults’ neighborhoods is similar, exposure to own-age neighbors varies. Compared with adults’ exposure to other adults, children are exposed to fewer white and more minority, particularly Hispanic, children. This is due in part to compositional differences, but children are also more unevenly sorted across neighborhoods by race than adults. One explanation for higher segregation among children is that parents consider school options when making residential choices. Consistent with this hypothesis, I find that school district boundaries account for a larger proportion of neighborhood segregation among children than among adults. Future research on spatial inequality must consider the multiple contexts differentially contributing to inequality among children and adults.

Owens, Ann, and Susan Clampet-Lundquist. 2017. “Housing Mobility and the Intergenerational Durability of Neighborhood Poverty”. Journal of Urban Affairs 39 (3):400-420. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This article uses mixed methods to identify factors that account for the intergenerational durability of neighborhood poverty, drawing on longitudinal data from the Moving to Opportunity study in Baltimore from 1994 to 2010. We use quantitative survey data from 504 young adults and qualitative interview data from 51 young adults to examine family characteristics during childhood that account for residence in high-poverty neighborhoods in young adulthood, considering whether housing assistance interacts with these characteristics to break the intergenerational durability of neighborhood poverty. In combination with housing assistance, family economic resources, social ties to high-poverty neighborhoods, entrenchment in high-poverty neighborhoods, and parents’ neighborhood experiences and expectations influence where young adults live in the next generation. Housing assistance has both replacement effects—substituting for what families lack—and enhancement effects—enabling families with more resources—on the intergenerational durability of neighborhood poverty. This study contributes to our understanding of neighborhood selection, intergenerational neighborhood outcomes, and the role of housing assistance.

Owens, Ann. 2017. “How Do People-Based Housing Policies Affect People (and Place)?”. Housing Policy Debate 2 (1):266-281. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Assisted housing programs in the United States aim to provide decent, safe, and affordable housing for low-income households. Increasingly, policymakers have also considered how assisted housing can provide access to lower poverty, income-diverse, and higher opportunity neighborhoods. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development currently balances two strategies. First, place-based programs—immoveable subsidies linked to particular units—can both revitalize distressed neighborhoods and provide access to higher opportunity neighborhoods. Second, people-based assistance—housing vouchers for use on the private rental market—can facilitate moves out of high-poverty, low-opportunity neighborhoods. During this policy moment with fair housing priorities receiving national attention, understanding the efficacy of each approach is critically important. This article synthesizes past research on housing vouchers to identify the impact of people-based assistance on four outcomes: residents’ neighborhood attainment, education, economic outcomes, and health. I also review the scant literature examining how vouchers affect place rather than people. I conclude by identifying aspects of special voucher programs that promote positive outcomes that could potentially be scaled up.

Owens, Ann, Sean F. Reardon, and Christopher Jencks. 2016. “Income Segregation between Schools and School Districts”. American Educational Research Journal 53 (4):1159-1197. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Although trends in the racial segregation of schools are well documented, less is known about trends in income segregation. We use multiple data sources to document trends in income segregation between schools and school districts. Between-district income segregation of families with children enrolled in public school increased by over 15% from 1990 to 2010. Within large districts, between-school segregation of students who are eligible and ineligible for free lunch increased by over 40% from 1991 to 2012. Consistent with research on neighborhood segregation, we find that rising income inequality contributed to the rise in income segregation between schools and districts during this period. The rise in income segregation between both schools and districts may have implications for inequality in students’ access to resources that bear on academic achievement.

Owens, Ann. 2016. “Inequality in Children’s Contexts: Income Segregation of Households With and Without Children”. American Sociological Review 81 (3):549-574. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Past research shows that income segregation between neighborhoods increased over the past several decades. In this article, I reexamine income segregation from 1990 to 2010 in the 100 largest metropolitan areas, and I find that income segregation increased only among families with children. Among childless households—two-thirds of the population—income segregation changed little and is half as large as among households with children. I examine two factors that may account for these differences by household composition. First, I find that increasing income inequality, identified by past research as a driver of income segregation, was a much more powerful predictor of income segregation among families with children, among whom income inequality has risen more. Second, I find that local school options, delineated by school district boundaries, contribute to higher segregation among households with children compared to households without. Rising income inequality provided high-income households more resources, and parents used these resources to purchase housing in particular neighborhoods, with residential decisions structured, in part, by school district boundaries. Overall, results indicate that children face greater and increasing stratification in neighborhood contexts than do all residents, and this has implications for growing inequalities in their future outcomes.

Owens, Ann. 2016. “Assisted Housing and Neighborhood Poverty Dynamics, 1977 to 2008”. Urban Affairs Review 52 (3):287-322. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Changes in housing policy have led to the geographic deconcentration of assisted housing, with assisted units now located in more and lower-poverty neighborhoods. Little research examines how the changing location of assisted housing shapes neighborhood poverty rates. I use propensity score matching to estimate how neighborhood poverty rates changed as assisted housing was gained or lost from 1977 to 2008 using a national panel data set. Neighborhood poverty rates increased when neighborhoods gained assisted housing units, with larger impacts when neighborhoods gained many assisted units. Neighborhoods that lost assisted units also became poorer. However, losing assisted units had a negative effect on poverty rates: Poverty rates increased less compared with neighborhoods that did not lose units. Therefore, removing assisted housing from high-poverty neighborhoods slowed, but did not reverse, poverty rate increases. These findings emphasize the durability of neighborhood poverty and inequality even in the face of drastic policy changes.

Owens, Ann. 2015. “Assisted Housing and Income Segregation between Neighborhoods in U.S. Metropolitan Areas”. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 660 (1):98-116. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Over the past 40 years, assisted housing in the United States has undergone a dramatic geographic deconcentration, with at least one unit of assisted housing now located in most metropolitan neighborhoods. The location of assisted housing shapes where low-income assisted renters live, and it may also affect the residential choices of nonassisted residents. This article examines whether the deconcentration of assisted housing has reduced the segregation of families by income among neighborhoods in metropolitan areas from 1980 to 2005–9. I find that the deconcentration of assisted housing resulted in modest economic residential integration for very low-income families. However, high-income families became even more segregated, as assisted housing was deconcentrated, potentially offsetting the economic integration gains and ensuring that very low-income families are living in neighborhoods with only slightly higher-income neighbors. I conclude by discussing features of housing policies that might promote greater income integration among neighborhoods.

Owens, Ann. 2015. “Housing Policy and Urban Inequality: Did the Transformation of Assisted Housing Reduce Poverty Concentration?”. Social Forces 94 (1):325-348. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Poverty concentration reflects long-standing inequalities between neighborhoods in the United States. As the poverty concentration paradigm gained traction among policymakers and social scientists, assisted housing policy was overhauled. New assisted housing programs introduced since 1970 have dramatically reduced the geographic concentration of assisted housing units, changing the residential location of many low-income residents. Was this intervention in the housing market enough to reduce poverty concentration? Using national longitudinal data, I find that the deconcentration of assisted housing from 1977 to 2008 only modestly reduced poverty concentration in the 100 largest metropolitan areas. The results are driven by the deconcentration of assisted housing after 2000, when policies had a greater focus on dispersal of assisted housing to low-poverty neighborhoods. My results suggest that even a substantial shift in housing policy cannot make great strides in deconcentrating poverty given the existing landscape of durable urban inequality. Assisted housing policy exists alongside many other structural forces that cluster poor residents in neighborhoods, and these factors may limit its ability to reduce poverty concentration. Moreover, new housing programs rely on the private market to determine the location of assisted units, and the enduring place hierarchy among neighborhoods may influence both where assisted housing is located and its effect on the residential choices of non-assisted residents in ways that undermine poverty deconcentration.

Reardon, Sean F, and Ann Owens. 2014. “60 Years After Brown: Trends and Consequences of School Segregation”. Annual Review of Sociology 40:199-218. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Since the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Educationdecision, researchers and policy makers have paid close attention to trends in school segregation. Here we review the evidence regarding trends and consequences of both racial and economic school segregation since Brown. The evidence suggests that the most significant declines in black-white school segregation occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s. There is disagreement about the direction of more recent trends in racial segregation, largely driven by how one defines and measures segregation. Depending on the definition used, segregation has either increased substantially or changed little, although there are important differences in the trends across regions, racial groups, and institutional levels. Limited evidence on school economic segregation makes documenting trends difficult, but students appear to be more segregated by income across schools and districts today than in 1990. We also discuss the role of desegregation litigation, demographic changes, and residential segregation in shaping trends in both racial and economic segregation. We develop a general conceptual model of how and why school segregation might affect students and review the relatively thin body of empirical evidence that explicitly assesses the consequences of school segregation. We conclude with a discussion of aspects of school segregation on which further research is needed.

Owens, Ann, and Robert J Sampson. 2013. “Community Well-being and the Great Recession”. Pathways, 3-7. Publisher's Version