In this moment in history where racial tensions are building rapidly and many are questioning what the future of race relations will be in America, it is important to study and understand the causes and consequences of residential decision-making. This paper aims to answer the question: to what extent are the movement decisions of residents dependent upon their proximity and exposure to members of different racial groups. In researching residential choice in a racial context, it is possible to understand the economic impacts of the movement choices of actors in and around American urban areas. This paper lays forth the history of American segregation, details theories related to the causes and consequences of segregation, discusses relevant scholarly literature regarding these topics, and uses data from the 2016 American Housing Survey to build an empirical model of the relationship between various socioeconomic factors and measures of both percentage black and segregation levels. One major overarching purpose of this paper is to understand American residential decision-making as a prisoner ’s dilemma in which the behavior of actors, opting to segregate, does not represent the actions that would lead to the greatest societal welfare.


Burnell, James




Behavioral Economics


Residential Choice, Spatial Location, Segregation Preferences, Prisoner's Dilemma

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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