Racial Politics in Residential Segregation Studies

Ronald Sundstrom


Most research about race has been influenced by values of one sort or another. This started with the inception of race as a biological category. Cognitive values about race were concerned with the worth of distinctive taxonomic divisions, and political values about it were concerned with the moral, aesthetic, and political meanings of these human distinctions. The presence of cognitive and non‐cognitive values in contemporary social science concerning race is no less present or important. The role of racial politics is exposed in the debate over the nature of contemporary residential housing patterns, as well as in examinations of the methods and measures of segregation research. Such examinations uncover not only a sociology of the segregation studies, but also certain values about race and segregation. This leads us to richer explanations, given our public political desires, than we would have without those values.