NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 30, 2005

Some argue that Southern public schools are resegregating because of waning judicial oversight, however, a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds this is not the case.

The authors measure racial isolation and imbalance using enrollment data from 1993/4 to 2003/4 from the largest 100 public school districts in the South. This data represent 15 percent of total K-12 enrollment in the eleven states of the former Confederacy, the six states bordering them, and the District of Columbia. The authors found that:

  • One past measure of segregation -- the percentage of black students enrolled in school with 90-100 percent nonwhite enrollment -- did increase between 1993/4 and 2003/4.
  • However, this increase is attributable to the surge in Hispanic and other non-white enrollment.
  • All races, including whites, experienced a proportionate decline in the proportion of non-Hispanic white students in their school.
  • The reduction in white student share was compensated for by an increase in the proportion of Hispanic and other non-white students.

In short, the percentage of black students in non-white schools is increasing because immigration has increased the number of students who are considered nonwhite under current systems of racial categorization.

The authors also find an association between judicial declarations and racial imbalance. They conclude there is some evidence to suggest that segregation in schools might have declined without the actions of federal courts.

Source: Linda Gorman, "Is Segregation in Southern Schools Increasing," NBER Digest, March 2005; based upon: Charles Clotfelter, Helen Ladd and Jacob Vigdor, "Local Control and the Specter of Resegregation in Southern Schools," National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 11086, January 2005.

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