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The Schelling Segregation Model Essay

2495 words - 10 pages

Introduction

In this essay, I aim to show that given Carl Hempel’s (1942) deductive-nomological (DN) theory of explanation and Bas C. van Fraassen’s (1980) pragmatic theory of explanation, Schelling only partially explains neighbourhood segregation, because multiple causal factors and background conditions ought to be taken into account. I will first outline how Schelling explains neighbourhood segregation, and then discuss the following aspects to show my conclusion:

1. Schelling’s model in the context of the DN theory of explanation
2. Schelling’s model in the context of the pragmatic theory of explanation
3. How to explain neighbourhood segregation…

An emphasis will be placed on the first and second to allow more thorough justification.

In this essay, neighbourhood will be defined in terms of “neighbourhood spaces” .

Schelling’s Explanation

Schelling’s explanation of neighbourhood segregation is outlined below:

In a local mixed neighbourhood of groups A and B, everyone is happy, given that:
(i) Relative to their location, everyone of a given colour has the same tastes and preferences for the colour mixture of their neighbour(s),
(ii) Everyone defines their neighbourhood according to their own location,
(iii) Everyone’s identity is publicly observable,
(iv) Everyone cares about the colour of their neighbour(s),
(v) Everyone is able to observe the number of people (i.e. the effective colour ratio) in the neighbourhood,
(vi) Individuals of group A are not outnumbered by the neighbours of group B by more than two-to-one, and vice versa. Alternatively, at least half of her neighbours ought to be the same type as them.

Schelling studies two random individuals at every point in time in the model. If the individuals are both oppositely coloured and unhappy in their current location, they will swap locations to satisfy assumption (iv).

To make room for newcomers and to resolve issues of empty units, Schelling assumes that individuals adhere to the “rule of movement” . This rule implies that innocuous individual preferences characterised by assumption (vi) will give rise to a gradual distribution of a spatial phenomenon: the population in groups A and B start to separate out. Schelling identifies this separation between groups A and B as a “stable equilibrium” .



For an illustration, consider Schelling’s two-dimensional model below:

Figure 1 justifies Schelling’s theory, in that seemingly innocuous individual preferences – a person’s desire for same-colour neighbours, and reluctance to be in the minority – can trigger changes in a system from one stable equilibrium to another, and hence result in neighbourhood segregation.

However, many scholars further articulate Schelling’s model under different circumstances with focuses ranging from the dynamics of movement to the population densities of local mixed neighbourhoods. The following point is worth noting.

It is unclear why individuals often decide to swap locations given...

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