Interview with 2018 ASA Park Book Award Recipients Maria Krysan and Kyle Crowder

CUSS Newsletter, 2019 Winter, Vol 32, No 1

Interviewers: 
Kyle Galindez, University of California, Santa Cruz 
Steven Schmidt, University of California, Irvine

Maria Krysan and Kyle Crowder. 2017. Cycle of Segregation: Social Processes and Residential Stratification. Russell Sage Foundation, New York.

What motivated you to study this particular research topic?

For the last decade or so, each of us — an urban demographer (Crowder) and a social psychologist (Krysan) — have been conducting research related to issues of residential segregation. Over the years, we began to have conversations—usually because we were presenting our work on the same panels at ASA or PAA—about what was missing in the field. We became frustrated by the academic conversations that seemed to be not so much incorrect, but incomplete. Each of us had also been working in our communities (Seattle and Chicago) with policymakers, agencies, non -profits and others, making presentations and working on research projects. Again, we felt as though the scholarly evidence and debates did not mesh well—and were not always asking the right questions—in a way that resonated with the experiences and insights from those who were working ‘on the ground’ trying to tackle the causes and consequences of residential segregation.

What theoretical debates interest you the most, and how do you see your research contributing to them?

Our book is focused on trying to re-frame the conversation about the causes of racial residential segregation, which have been almost catatonically focused on theoretical arguments related to three forces: racial residential preferences, economics, and discrimination. Our central argument is that (1) these three things do matter, but they are not mutually exclusive and in fact intersect with each other in ways that are crucially important to understand if one wants to disrupt the cycle of segregation; and (2) there are also other factors—social networks, lived experiences, and the media— which also impact how you end up living where you do. We hope our book, and the theoretical framework, will help to open up new lines of research and inquiry.

What surprises did you find as you conducted your fieldwork?

One of the things that surprised us was the shortage of research on these basic social dynamics, and the process we needed to go through to assemble the pieces of our argument. In putting together the book, we cast a pretty wide net in our effort to assemble evidence related to social drivers of segregation – including quantitative analysis of largescale survey data (Panel Study of Income Dynamics, American Housing Survey, U.S. Census) and analysis of in-depth interviews. When we first started batting around ideas for the book, we did not anticipate doing a mixedmethods study just to develop the argument, but we found that the pieces really meshed well together, with each part of the analysis providing a necessary clue. So in this sense, the development of the project was a somewhat surprising lesson in the power of a multimethods approach.

What are some future directions for this project?

Our research gathers together insights and patterns from a variety of sources, both qualitative and quantitative, to lay out our argument. But none are direct tests of the larger framework. Instead, we have essentially assembled a good deal of circumstantial evidence for theoretical arguments that still await formal tests. In some sense, our hope is that our book provides a roadmap for other researchers to use, because there are more questions and hypotheses in our book than there are answers and evidence. We also hope to use the framework to help guide potential policy efforts designed to break down the patterns of segregation that plague many of our cities.

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