Dismantling the Architecture of Segregation

A Conference Sponsored by the Center for Urban Research and Education

Rutgers University–Camden, October 11, 2019

Event Registration is now open:

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Recent land use and zoning proposals around the United States directly attack the “Architecture of Segregation” – the public policies and institutional practices that further spatial inequality. Single- family zoning, for example, has effectively been used to keep lower-income people out of certain neighborhoods. To address this inequity, Minneapolis has eliminated single-family zoning throughout the city. Oregon and Seattle are considering similar measures. Several 2020 Presidential candidates, including Senators Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren, have offered significant proposals to break down exclusionary zoning. Segregation will not be solved through reform of land use policies alone, but the recent attention to the role of unwise public policies in creating and sustaining spatial inequality is a welcome first step.

This one-day conference will bring together leading academics, practitioners, and policymakers to develop an anti-segregation policy agenda. Speakers and panelists will articulate, analyze, and debate policy changes to finally begin to dismantle the Architecture of Segregation. We invite research papers on topics such as: 1) land use and housing policies that contribute to the persistence of segregation in the United States; 2) policy analyses of proposed policies intended to promote racial and economic integration; and 3) analyses of the implementation and evaluations of the impact of such policies.

This conference is necessary because the persistence of segregation by race and class casts a long shadow on the nation. In the average metropolitan area, 60 percent of blacks would have to move to a different neighborhood to achieve full integration. In some major metropolitan areas, such as New York, Detroit, or Milwaukee, the figure is nearly 80 percent. Black and white children enrolled in school are even more segregated than adults. Segregation of blacks from Asians, while lower on average, is growing. The nation is segregated by income as well as race, with more than 11 million persons residing in high-poverty areas – 56 percent higher than in 2000. A growing body of research confirms the detrimental effects that socially and economically isolated neighborhoods have on the health, safety, and life chances of those who live in them, particularly children.

There is a growing realization that segregation by race and ethnicity and concentration of poverty are not inevitable, but rather result from public policies and institutional arrangements that have governed the growth and development of metropolitan areas for decades:

  • The federal government subsidized suburban development that depopulated urban cores, allowed suburban jurisdictions to exclude low-income families, and tolerated blatant racial discrimination in suburban housing markets and housing finance.
  • Fragmented governance allowed suburban jurisdictions to set local development policies with no regard for the larger metropolitan areas within which they were embedded.
  • Tax policy rewarded construction of large homes while housing policies reinforced segregated patterns of public and assisted housing.

Every social and economic problem is both harder and costlier to solve in the context of vastly unequal neighborhoods. Thus, reducing segregation is an essential first step to fixing failing schools, improving health and education outcomes for low-income children, and improving spatial access to opportunity. Moreover, moving towards more integrated living patterns will help break down the walls of distrust that contribute to racial animosity, growing inequality, and political polarization.

In addition to research papers, the conference will feature presentations by public officials, policymakers, and advocates actively engaged in efforts to promote integration through changes to land use regulations, housing finance reform, fair housing enforcement, and affordable housing development. The event will be livestreamed and broadcast on social media via the CURE Twitter account, @CURECamden.

Download this Call for Papers message as a PDF

Important Dates

July 19: Abstract submission deadline
August 2: Accepted participants notified
September 27: Paper/presentation submission deadline
October 11: Conference at Rutgers University-Camden, Camden NJ.

CURE will cover hotel accommodations and reasonable travel costs.


This conference is organized by the Center for Urban Research and Education at Rutgers University – Camden.