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Municipal Underbounding: Annexation and Racial Exclusion in Small Southern Towns

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Rural Sociology Volume 72, Number 1, ISSN 0036-0112


This paper examines patterns of annexation, including municipal "underbounding," in nonmetropolitan towns in the South; that is, whether blacks living adjacent to municipalities are systematically excluded from incorporation. Annexation--or the lack of annexation--can be a political tool used by municipal leaders to exclude disadvantaged or low-income populations, including minorities, from voting in local elections and from receiving access to public utilities and other community services. To address this question, we use Tiger files, GIS, and other geographically disaggregated data from the Summary Files of the 1990 and 2000 decennial censuses. Overall, 22.6 percent of the fringe areas "at risk" of annexation in our study communities was African American, while 20.7 percent of the areas that were actually annexed during the 1990s was African American. However, communities with large black populations at the fringe were significantly less likely than other communities to annex at all--either black or white population. Largely white communities that faced a "black threat"--which we defined in instances where the county "percent black" was higher than the place "percent black"--were also less likely to annex black populations during the 1990s. Finally, predominately white communities were much less likely to annex black populations, even when we controlled for the size of the black fringe population at risk of annexation. Such results provide evidence of racial exclusion in small southern towns. (Contains 1 figure, 6 tables, and 10 footnotes.)


Lichter, D.T., Parisi, D., Grice, S.M. & Taquino, M. (2007). Municipal Underbounding: Annexation and Racial Exclusion in Small Southern Towns. Rural Sociology, 72(1), 47-68. Retrieved November 30, 2022 from .

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