The Hous­ing Divide: How Gen­er­a­tions of Immi­grants Fare in New York’s Hous­ing Market

Emi­ly Rosen­baum; Saman­tha Friedman
  • Review
By – March 26, 2012

Loca­tion! Loca­tion! Loca­tion! Where one lives has a dra­mat­ic effect on one’s life chances for many gen­er­a­tions, accord­ing to soci­ol­o­gists Emi­ly Rosen­baum and Saman­tha Fried­man, authors of The Hous­ing Divide: How Gen­er­a­tions of Immi­grants Fare in New York’s Hous­ing Mar­ket. Eth­nic­i­ty and race play a cru­cial role in deter­min­ing where immi­grants live and this in turn deter­mines the schools their chil­dren attend, the qual­i­ty of the hous­ing and the nature of the resources in their neigh­bor­hoods and ulti­mate­ly their future suc­cess. Immi­grants of African ances­try, includ­ing black His­pan­ics, tend to reside in the most dete­ri­o­rat­ing neigh­bor­hoods with the least resources because of per­sis­tent racial dis­crim­i­na­tion. White immi­grants fare very dif­fer­ent­ly. They are often wel­comed in mid­dle class com­mu­ni­ties. The authors cite the case of the Sovi­et Jews who start­ed arriv­ing in the 1970’s and whose num­bers mush­roomed” to 13,260 in 1990 – 94 and to over 20,000 in 1995 – 96, there­by becom­ing the largest sin­gle immi­grant group arriv­ing in New York City in that year. As whites, Sovi­et Jews were wel­comed in many com­mu­ni­ties and had oth­er advan­tages. They were iden­ti­fied as refugees” and as such qual­i­fied for fed­er­al assis­tance. In addi­tion, estab­lished Jew­ish agen­cies helped them by pro­vid­ing ser­vices to them and steer­ing” them into aging East­ern Euro­pean Jew­ish neigh­bor­hoods such Brighton Beach, Rego Park, and Mid­wood where the hous­ing stock was in fair­ly good con­di­tion. This effec­tive­ly helped to rein­force pat­terns of racial seg­re­ga­tion in the city,” the authors report. 

The authors appear to empha­size the neg­a­tive con­se­quences of the steer­ing” of Sovi­et Jews. How­ev­er, the actions of the Jew­ish agen­cies seem quite appro­pri­ate. The mis­sion of these agen­cies is to help needy Jews. Fos­ter­ing the set­tle­ment of these new immi­grants into sup­port­ive Jew­ish eth­nic enclaves is an impor­tant mech­a­nism to facil­i­tate their adjust­ment. In fair­ness to the book, this is not a major con­cern of the authors. The major con­cern of the book is pro­vid­ing an analy­sis of immi­grant hous­ing pat­terns and pro­vid­ing strate­gies to elim­i­nate the inequal­i­ties that dif­fer­en­tial­ly expose cer­tain groups to restrict­ed oppor­tu­ni­ties for social and eco­nom­ic advancement.” 

For the aver­age read­er, this book will be dif­fi­cult read­ing but it will be fas­ci­nat­ing for pol­i­cy mak­ers and schol­ars con­cerned with hous­ing pat­terns and racial discrimination.

Emi­ly Rosen­baum is pro­fes­sor of soci­ol­o­gy at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty. Saman­tha Fried­man is assis­tant pro­fes­sor of soci­ol­o­gy at North­east­ern Uni­ver­si­ty. Appen­dices, bib­li­og­ra­phy, index, notes.

Car­ol Poll, Ph.D., is the retired Chair of the Social Sci­ences Depart­ment and Pro­fes­sor of Soci­ol­o­gy at the Fash­ion Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy of the State Uni­ver­si­ty of New York. Her areas of inter­est include the soci­ol­o­gy of race and eth­nic rela­tions, the soci­ol­o­gy of mar­riage, fam­i­ly and gen­der roles and the soci­ol­o­gy of Jews.

Discussion Questions