New housing research shows Latinos the most comfortable in diverse neighborhoods

LatinaLista — The quintessential American Dream is owning a home. Yet, there’s a second part to that dream that nobody really talks about — the neighborhood.

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Everybody wants to live in a “good neighborhood” but thanks to a new study by researchers for the Institute for Urban Research at Houston’s Rice University some people are still less likely to buy in a neighborhood if their neighbors look different from themselves, even if the crime rate is low.

In the study “Who we’ll live with,” due to be published in the academic journal Social Forces, researchers posed a series of housing questions to 1,000 whites, 1,000 African Americans and 1,000 Hispanics of Harris County, Texas, home to Houston.

Respondents were asked to imagine they were looking for a house and found one they liked in their price range. They then were presented with computer-generated, random scenarios of school quality, property values, crime rate and racial makeup, and asked the likelihood that they would buy the house.

The results were both expected and surprising.

When whites were asked, the results showed that white buyers were more averse to buying in neighborhoods where the percentage of blacks and Hispanics were increasing, even if crime rates were low, schools were of high quality and property values were increasing.

When blacks were asked, their drawback to buying a home with the same factors being contstant was the increasing percentage of Asians living in the neighborhood.

Latinos were the only ones accepting of all ethnicities and for whom neighbors didn’t impact their buying decision.

Sociology Professor Michael Emerson, one of the three authors of the report, said that it surprised him that in a city like Houston, considered to be progressive and diverse, that white residents would still feel such a strong emotion about living in an integrated neighborhood:

A lot of times people say, “So what? People like to live in places with other people like themselves.” But the big ‘so what’ is despite whatever progress we’re making racially, the massive wealth gap between whites, blacks and Hispanics is not decreasing but increasing. A lot of it is because of segregation in our neighborhoods.

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