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Schelling’s Checkerboard and Computer Simulators’ Predictions of Spatial Isolation of Group Homes for Persons with Disabilities

Environmental Contexts and Disability

ISBN: 978-1-78441-263-0, eISBN: 978-1-78441-262-3

Publication date: 4 November 2014



In Schelling’s “checkerboard” model of segregation, individuals’ moderately held preferences about the proportion of their neighbors who are similar versus dissimilar to them can, through an automatic and mathematical process, yield dramatic population-level segregative behaviors. The notion of such an automatic segregative process would seem to have implications for spatial dynamics when a group home for persons with disabilities is introduced into a community. This study sought to examine those implications alongside data in the research literature regarding community acceptance of group homes.


Using an agent-based modeling approach, computer simulations were constructed to apply Schelling’s model, as well as an alternative model, to community reaction to the introduction of group homes for persons with disabilities. Simulation conditions were set to roughly correspond to the proportion of group homes or other congregate living situations, as well as vacant dwellings, in a typical community in the United States.


The simulations predict that group homes will, to varying degrees, become spatially isolated within their communities. These predictions conflict with previous research findings that suggest minimal relocation of neighbors and rapid adjustment of communities to the presence of group homes.

Social implications

Simulations of an automatic segregative process might offer a baseline or a “null hypothesis” of sorts, allowing us to more fully understand the extent of the social and socioeconomic forces that serve to moderate or override such an automatic process, allowing communities to adjust to group homes’ presence.




The author wishes to thank Luis R. Izquierdo for his kind assistance in the development of the simulators used in this work.


Robey, K.L. (2014), "Schelling’s Checkerboard and Computer Simulators’ Predictions of Spatial Isolation of Group Homes for Persons with Disabilities", Environmental Contexts and Disability (Research in Social Science and Disability, Vol. 8), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 103-122.



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