Penn Professor Explores How Segregated Communities Shape Racial Attitudes in "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"

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Media Contact:Jacquie Posey | | 215-898-6460November 9, 2006

PHILADELPHIA-  Camille Zubrinsky Charles, associate professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, examines how segregation shapes our attitudes about race in her new book, "Won't You Be My Neighbor? Race, Class and Residence in Los Angeles."

Through in-depth survey data from a large multiracial sample of Los Angeles residents, Charles found that segregation doesn't stem from blacks and whites preference to live only among themselves but rather from negative stereotypes of African-Americans held by whites, Latinos, Asians and others and from those groups avoidance of African-Americans as neighbors.

"People of all races show a clear and consistent order of preference, with whites considered the most highly desired neighbors and blacks the least desirable.  This is even true among recent immigrants who have little experience with American race relations," Charles writes in the book, published by the Russell Sage Foundation.  

Charles found that people's racial prejudices coupled with minority-group fears of white hostility strongly affect decisions about where they live.  Her book expands the analyses of race relations beyond black-white relations, looking at the effect of rising racial-ethnic diversity in America on relations between minority groups and at minority-group relations with whites.

Additional information about "Wont You Be My Neighbor" is available at charles.