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Karyn Lacy

Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Chapter Member: Michigan SSN
Areas of Expertise:

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About Karyn

Lacy's research focuses on black elites, race relations, residential segregation, identity, parental socialization, and suburban inequality. She is the author of the award-winning book, Blue-Chip Black: Race, Class, and Status in the New Black Middle Class. Lacy’s public writing has appeared in the New York Times, Vox, Public Seminar, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.


In the News

Opinion: "How Democrats and Republicans Could Be Getting the Suburbs Wrong," Karyn Lacy, Think, November 4, 2022.
Opinion: "“Cancel Culture” Forgets Most Racism Happens in Private," Karyn Lacy, Vox, April 9, 2021.
Opinion: "What Happens to the Suburbs When Black People Move In?," Karyn Lacy, Noteworthy -The Journal Blog, December 2, 2020.
Guest on Property Radar, August 13, 2020.
Quoted by Perry Bacon Jr and Meredith Conroy in "Black Americans Are Very Connected To Being Black," Five Thirty Eight, June 10, 2020.
Opinion: "How to Convince a White Realtor You're Middle Class," Karyn Lacy, The New York Times, January 21, 2020.
Quoted by Richard Florida in "How Suburbia Is Changing," CityLab, November 7, 2019.
Quoted by Richard Florida in "The Changing Demographics of America's Suburbs," CityLab, November 7, 2019.
Opinion: "Auditioning for the Role of Colleague," Karyn Lacy, The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 14, 2016.
Opinion: "in Black Middle Class, the Vulnerable and the Comfortable," Karyn Lacy, The New York Times, July 25, 2011.


"Is Voluntary Segregation Really Voluntary?" in Race and Real Estate (Transgressing Boundaries: Studies in Black Politics and Black Communities, edited by Adrienne Brown and Valerie Smith (Oxford University Press, 2015).

Qualifies and complicates traditional narratives of  race, property, and citizenship in the United States. Explores how the raced history of property affects understandings of home and citizenship.

"Black Spaces, Black Places: Strategic Assimilation and Identity Construction in Middle-Class Suburbia" Ethnic and Racial Studies 27, no. 6 (2004): 908-930.

Establishes the link between an affinity for black spaces and the alternative assimilation trajectories of middle-class blacks. Finds that middle-class blacks engage in a variant of segmented assimilation, privileging the black world as a site for socializing even if they live in a white suburb. Suggests that this population of middle-class blacks does not perceive itself as permanently constrained to the bottom rung of a racial hierarchy.

"Race, Privilege and the Growing Class Divide" Ethnic and Racial Studies 38, no. 8 (2015): 1246-1249.

Suggests that extending Wilson's argument, that social class mattered more for getting ahead than race by the mid-twentieth century, to include a new period that encompasses the last twenty-five years, would help to illuminate more recent structural advantages that contribute to class privilege in American society as well as an emerging fault line within the black middle class.

"Blue-Chip Black: Race, Class, and Status in the New Black Middle Class" (University of California Press, 2007).

Examines the complicated sense of identity that middle-class blacks craft to manage their interactions with lower-class blacks, middle-class whites, and other middle-class blacks as they seek to reap the benefits of their middle-class status. Reveals that middle-class blacks choose from a toolkit of situational identities and that they employ public identities, status-based identities, class-based identities, and suburban identities in addition to a black racial identity.

"Breaking the Class Monolith: Understanding Class Differences in Black Adolescents' Attachment to Racial Identity" (with Angel Harris), in Social Class: How Does It Work?, edited by Annette Lareau and Salton Conley (Russell Sage Foundation, 2008).

Examines how social class operates in the United States today.