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Trends in the Distributions of Income and Human Capital within Metropolitan Areas: 1980-2000

Human capital tends to have significant external effects within local markets, increasing the average income of individuals within the same metropolitan area. However, evidence on both human capital spillovers and peer effects in neighborhoods suggests that these effects may be confined to relatively small areas. Hence, the distribution of income gains from average levels of human capital should depend on how that human capital is distributed throughout a city. This paper explores this issue by documenting the extent to which college graduates are residentially segregated across more than 165000 block groups in 359 U.S. metropolitan areas over the period 1980-2000. Using three different metrics, we find that the segregation of college graduates rose between 1980 and 2000. We also find that cities which experienced larger increases in their levels of segregation also experienced larger increases in income inequality, although our results suggest that inequality and segregation likely influence each other.

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