NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

School Choice Promotes Integration

April 12, 2000

Some people oppose school choice because they fear that it will foster racial segregation, says researcher Jay P. Greene. Yet the facts suggest that private schools, on average, are better integrated by race than are public schools.

Most public school students are assigned to schools based on where they live; thus the schools tend to reinforce housing segregation. Private schools, on the other hand, typically draw students from across political and neighborhood boundaries. While public school systems have a higher proportion of minority students, individual private schools are more likely to be integrated.

According to a national sample of public and private school 12th graders collected by the U.S. Department of Education:

  • More than half of all public school 12th graders (55 percent) are in classes that have more than 90 percent or fewer than 10 percent minority students.
  • In private schools, just 41 percent of students are in similarly segregated classrooms.
  • Furthermore, more than a third (37 percent) of private school students are in classes whose racial composition is within 10 percent of the national average, compared to just 18 percent of public school students.

In the Cleveland, Ohio, area, more than three- fifths of public school students attend schools that are nearly all white or all minority. Yet among students who choose to attend private schools with a voucher under the school choice program there, only half are in similarly segregated schools.

Cleveland students are using vouchers to move from racially segregated public schools to better-integrated private schools. Expanding access to private schools through school choice and vouchers nationwide is likely to reduce segregation in U.S. education, concludes Greene.

Source: Jay P. Greene (Manhattan Institute), "Why School Choice Can Promote Integration," Education Week, April 12, 2000.


Browse more articles on Education Issues