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Neighborhood and School Integration Don't Always Go Hand in Hand, Study Finds

In cities across the U.S., the relationship between residential and school segregation isn’t always clear.
November 27, 2018, 6am PST | Camille Fink
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Matt Barnum reports on new research showing that neighborhood integration in a city is not always reflected in relative levels of school integration. “The analysis finds that, between 1990 and 2015, 72 percent of U.S. cities saw their neighborhoods grow less racially segregated, by one measure. Sixty-two percent saw their schools grow more segregated over that same period.”

Of the 100 most populous cities examined, Seattle is at one extreme. Neighborhood segregation decreased between 1990 and 2015, but the percentage of highly segregated schools jumped from 3 percent to 17 percent during that time. While this trend was seen in other cities, the differences were not as significant. And in some cities, neighborhood and school integration both increased over this same period.

Understanding the causes of these trends is more complicated because cities face different issues, says Ryan Coughlan, the researcher behind this study. However, he points to the end of court-ordered desegregation and the increase in school choice, including charter schools, as possible factors. 

One limitation of the study is that it did not include charter schools, which make up a big part of school districts in some urban areas. Still, these findings have important policy implications, says Barnum. “More integrated schools have long been shown to improve academic outcomes for low-income students and students of color. Living in a more integrated neighborhood has also been linked to long-run benefits for younger kids.”

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Published on Monday, November 19, 2018 in Chalkbeat
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