STORMING THE GATES: How Gated Communities and the “Mexodus” Have Contributed to Residential Segregation Since the Turn of the Century

Serafino, Brittany [Browse]
Senior thesis
125 pages


Massey, Douglas [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year
Summary note
In this thesis, I relate the rising trend in gated communities and the recent influx of affluent Mexican immigrants—deemed the “Mexodus” by sociologists—to changing patterns of residential segregation in the United States. I hypothesize that gated communities facilitate residential segregation, by means of race, socioeconomic status, and nativity, and that these factors are the primary determinants of selection into gated communities. In addition, I expect the “Mexodus” is currently playing an intensifying role in the effect of gated communities on residential segregation in the receiving areas of these immigrants. While the negative effects of gated communities are largely agreed upon in the literature, few studies have supported these claims with empirical, systematic evidence. In order to substantiate the link between gated communities and residential segregation, I utilize data from the American Housing Survey (AHS) to conduct a national, quantitative analysis. I first employ the use of weighted averages to provide a snapshot of Whites, Hispanics, and Hispanic immigrants living in gated communities compared to those living in non-gated communities in 2009 and describe the changes that appear to have occurred in these communities between 2001 and 2009. Next, I conduct three sets of logistic regressions in order to determine how socioeconomic status, demographic factors, and housing characteristics affected the tendency of Whites, Hispanics, and Hispanic immigrants to live in gated communities in 2009. I run the same regressions utilizing the 2001 data and incorporate probability prediction analyses in order to determine how the effects of these factors have changed since the turn of the century. In order to shed light on my results, I briefly discuss the U.S. housing crisis and the disproportionate, negative impact it had on Hispanics and Hispanic immigrants during the time period under study. In order to integrate the “Mexodus” into my analysis, I take a qualitative, case study approach. Because this occurrence has yet to receive adequate scholarly attention, my research relies primarily on newspaper articles and personal interviews with former and prospective affluent Mexican immigrants, immigration attorneys, and real estate agents. Through these sources, I detail the motives and popular avenues of immigration employed by “Mexodus” immigrants as well their selections in location and residency, including gated communities. I use additional secondary sources to describe the drug wars occurring in Mexico, detail the EB-5 visa program, and compare the “Mexodus” to the rapid influx of elite Cubans to Miami after the Cuban revolution in 1959. In turn, I am able to discuss future expectations regarding the “Mexodus” in receiving areas of these immigrants. Ultimately, my research supports that gated communities, as a whole, are increasingly diversifying in terms of race, nativity, and quality. However, these developments do still appear to be facilitating the segregation of Whites from Hispanics and Hispanic immigrants and fostering socioeconomic segregation within each of these groups. The influx of affluent Mexican immigrants to Texas and the preference of this group to live in gated communities illustrate one example in which these developments may facilitate additional residential segregation within a minority group. The rise in gated communities and the “Mexodus” are relatively recent occurrences and largely unexplored phenomena. While I discuss possible policy implications of my findings, I recommend the accumulation of additional empirical, systematic evidence before any formal policy is enacted.

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