Does the Schelling Tipping Point Model Fail?

William Easterly, an NYU economist best known for his work in international development, has a new NBER working paper suggesting that the Schelling tipping point model of neighborhood racial segregation doesn’t work out strongly as an empirical matter. Here’s the abstract:

The Schelling model of a “tipping point” in racial segregation, in which whites flee a neighborhood once a threshold of nonwhites is reached, is a canonical model of strategic interdependence. The idea of “tipping” explaining segregation is widely accepted in the academic literature and popular media. I use census tract data for metropolitan areas of the US from 1970 to 2000 to test the predictions of the Schelling model and find that this particular model of strategic interaction largely fails the tests. There is more “white flight” out of neighborhoods with a high initial share of whites than out of more racially mixed neighborhoods.