Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

Sociology (Applied), PhD

Committee Chair

Best, Latrica

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Heberle, Lauren

Committee Member

Heberle, Lauren

Committee Member

Kinahan, Kelly

Committee Member

Marsh, Kris

Committee Member

Roelfs, David

Author's Keywords

black middle class; residential segregation; neighborhoods; black middle-class neighborhoods; race and racism


This dissertation is an articles-based, mixed methods study that analyzes Black middle-class neighborhood attainment in Louisville. Racialized social structure theory is the theoretical framework that is employed to make sense of the adverse positionality of Black middle-class neighborhoods. Racialized social structure theory posits that individuals are placed in racial categories that are hierarchically arranged, which, at the neighborhood level, translates to White and Black householders advancing their material interests in competing ways. These competing interests are asymmetrical in terms of power relations, which means that the neighborhood choices of the Black middle-class are constrained by the routinized ways that the racialized social structure diminishes their claims to middle-class status. The first and second articles primarily utilize the 2016 American Community Survey to compare Black middle-class neighborhood attainment across similarly sized urban areas and to analyze the spatial proximity of Black middle-class households and households considered poor, respectively. These articles find that the segregation levels faced by the Black middle class affect how many Black middle-class households live in prototypical middle-class neighborhoods and show that durable geographical patterns are interwoven with the racial characterizations of neighborhoods, both yielding disadvantages to neighborhoods with growing Black populations. In the third article, the perspectives of middle-class Blacks are brought to the forefront and uncover that a great deal of ownership is expressed by respondents in terms of the home buying process and their neighborhood lives and a relationship is found between familial class background and neighborhood preferences. Overall, Black middle-class neighborhoods in Louisville are socioeconomically heterogeneous. However, this heterogeneity reflects neighborhood choices that are constrained by trade-offs between living in neighborhoods conducive to wealth-building or living in neighborhoods that are less economically advantaged, but allow for more social comfort.