Schelling's Spatial Proximity Model of Segregation Revisited
Romans Pancs, Stanford University
Nicolaas J. Vriend, Queen Mary, University of London
Journal of Public Economics, 2007, Vol. 91, p. 1-24

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Abstract. Schelling [Schelling, T.C., 1969. Models of Segregation. American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings, 59, 488-493, Schelling, T.C., 1971a. Dynamic Models of Segregation. Journal of Mathematical Sociology, 1 (2), 143-186, Schelling, T.C., 1971b. On the Ecology of Micromotives. The Public Interest, 25, 61-98, Schelling, T.C., 1978. Micromotives and Macrobehavior. New York: Norton.] presented a microeconomic model showing how an integrated city could unravel to a rather segregated city, notwithstanding relatively mild assumptions concerning the individual agents' preferences, i.e., no agent preferring the resulting segregation. We examine the robustness of Schelling's model, focusing in particular on its driving force: the individual preferences. We show that even if all individual agents have a strict preference for perfect integration, best-response dynamics may lead to segregation. This raises some doubts on the ability of public policies to generate integration through the promotion of openness and tolerance with respect to diversity. We also argue that the one-dimensional and two-dimensional versions of Schelling's spatial proximity model are in fact two qualitatively very different models of segregation.

J.E.L. classification codes. C72, C73, D62

Keywords. Neighborhood segregation, Myopic Nash Equilibria, Best-response dynamics, Markov chain, Limit-behavior

Nick Vriend,
Last modified 2016-02-05