Residential Mobility and the Market Value of
Whiteness in Boston
MELISSA MacDONALD AND FRANCE WINDDANCE TWINE
Between 1998 and 2001 Becca, a thirty-two-year-old single mother and former welfare
daughter was born in October of 2001. After her daughter's birth she applied for wel-
fare assistance and was assigned to Section 8 housing. Her Section 8 housing voucher
provided her with the opportunity to move outside of Boston, Massachusetts to the sub-
urb of Norfolk, Massachusetts.
How do individual, welfare dependent white women, like Becca, negotiate the struc-
tures of institutional racism in the housing market? What benefits do they gain by em-
into her previous town of residence, Norfolk, Massachusetts, Becca states, “I knew what
public housing had done to my mother. It was hellish, so Section 8 would be my best
chance because I knew I wanted to live in a suburb.” She goes on:
Without a question there is a stereotype and fortunately I did use white privilege.
I could pass in a certain way. I did present myself well. I do speak well. I'm using
that privilege … and it was something I needed to do in order to get where I
needed to be—I had to use my white privilege to get in [to her apartment].
TodayBeccaandherdaughterliveinatwo-bedroom,Section8 1 apartmentinNewton,
Massachusetts. Newton is a predominantly white upper middle-class residential commu-
is $692,000. White people comprise 82.3% of the local residential population while Asi-
tion has earned a bachelor's degree. Only 5.9% of the population, compared to 10.5% of