Contested Boundaries: Explaining Where Ethno-Racial Diversity Provokes Neighborhood Conflict

Joscha Legewie, New York University (NYU)
Merlin Schaeffer, WZB Berlin Social Science Center

Decades of research link local population characteristics such as concentrated disadvantage or residential instability to neighborhood erosion and other phenomena. This study extends this research agenda and examines the role of neighborhood boundaries for conflict between neighbors. We build on edge detection algorithms from computer vision and image processing to develop a method that detects boundaries between ethnically and socioeconomically homogeneous neighborhoods. Based on data from 7.7 million time and geo-coded 311 service requests from New York City, we show that the number of complaints about neighbors making noise, blocking the driveway, or drinking in public is higher at neighborhood boundaries. Aside from the importance of our results for the literature on intergroup relations, our research advances neighborhood boundaries as an important feature of the spatial structure and proposes edge detection algorithms as a corresponding measurement tool.

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Presented in Session 222: Spatial Effects on Partnering and Race