Law, Space and Society: Legal Challenges of Middle-Class Ethnic Minority Flight

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Patterns of residence and immigration are shaped by many factors: institutional forces, such as housing supply and demand, labor markets, government incentives, legal regulation, government housing policy, and neighborhood characteristics. Patterns of immigration are also affected by communal constraints, and the need for a social network in the newly inhabited place. ThisThe article focuses on inner-state migration of established middle-class ethnic minorities who leave their localities to settle in hegemonic ones. This process is conceptualized in the American context as “black flight,” which describes the escape of a socially and economically marginalized, but mobile African Americangroups away from their crowded, neglected, homogenous spaces to affluent and hegemonic ones. The flight process is a result of the reality of spatial segregation that creates spatial integration and as such, it has unique legal implications that go beyond the spatial dimension of individual relocation. The article seeks to investigate the legal implications of the flight of middle-class ethnic minorities in multicultural states, who share similar segregated landscape systems and ethnicgroup dynamics. I argue that legal implications occur in two stages. The first is in the initial stage when moving into the hegemonic space, when middle-class minority residentsmay face obstacles when purchasing a house and challenge public and private discriminating spatial policies through the legal system. The second stage is after moving to the hegemonic space, when residents litigate for collective group rights, such as language and education rights. The Article concludes that theflight process which takes place in the private sphere and is promoted by private individuals, instigates legal and constitutional debates regarding the regulationof the public sphere and public law norms including issues of segregation and exclusion, collective rights, and discrimination in housing. It reconstructs thecurrent balance of power within the state, where individuals and private corporations shape social and spatial structure of localities no less than public institutions do.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)57-86
JournalHarvard Journal on Racial & Ethnic Justice
StatePublished - 2018


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