The Effect of Density Zoning on Racial Segregation in U.S. Urban Areas

Published: 2009 | Jonathan Rothwell and Douglas Massey


We argue that anti-density zoning increases black residential segregation in U.S. metropolitan areas by reducing the quantity of affordable housing in white jurisdictions. Drawing on census data and local regulation indicators compiled by Pendall, we estimate a series of regression models to measure the effect of maximum density zoning on black segregation. Results estimated using ordinary least squares indicate a strong and significant cross-sectional relationship between low-density zoning and racial segregation, even after controlling for other zoning policies and a variety of metropolitan characteristics, a relationship that persists under two-stage least squares estimation. Both estimation strategies also suggest that anti-density zoning inhibits desegregation over time.