The information theory of segregation: Uniting segregation and inequality in a common framework

Paul A. Jargowsky, Jeongdai Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Purpose: We propose the Information Theory of Segregation, which holds that all measures of segregation and of inequality are united within a single conceptual framework. Accepting this framework implies that all measures of inequality can also be used to measure segregation and that all measures of segregation are fundamentally based on measures of inequality. Methodology: We state several propositions that follow from the information theory perspective, and show mathematically that many common measures of inequality and segregation satisfy the propositions. Findings: We show that all common measures of inequality can be used to form measures of segregation and that the resulting measures can be applied to binary, polytomous, and continuous variables. Further, we develop several new measures, including a Gini Segregation Index (GS) for continuous variables and Income Dissimilarity Index (ID), a version of the Index of Dissimilarity suitable for measuring economic segregation. We show that segregation measures can easily be adapted to handle persons of mixed race, and describe the Non-Exclusive Index of Dissimilarity (NED) and the Non-Exclusive Entropy Index of Segregation (NEH). We also develop a correction for structural constraints on the value of segregation measures, comparable to capacity constraints in a communications channel, which prevent them from reaching their theoretical maximum or minimum value. Originality: Placing inequality and segregation measures in a common framework is useful for several reasons. It highlights a common mathematical structure shared by many different segregation measures, and it suggests certain useful variants of these measures that have not been recognized previously.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-31
Number of pages29
JournalResearch on Economic Inequality
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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