NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Public Schools are Resegregating

January 21, 2003

More students attend segregated public schools now than at any time since the late 1960s, despite decades of court-ordered busing and school oversight, research shows.

In "A Multiracial Society with Segregated Schools: Are We Losing the Dream?" the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University says more than 70 percent of black students and nearly 76 percent of Latino students nationwide now attend predominantly minority schools.

Looking at more than 30 years of data, the report says the South made the most desegregation gains, moving from "virtual apartheid in the early 1960s to become the nation's most integrated region." Now, however, public schools are becoming resegregated, especially in the South. According to the report:

  • Nationally, white students are the most segregated group in the country, with the average white student attending a school that is 80 percent white.
  • Just 31 percent of black students attend majority white schools today, compared to 43.5 percent in 1988.
  • Asians are the most integrated group, living in integrated neighborhoods and attending racially mixed schools.
  • Suburban populations are becoming more diverse, but patterns of segregation are cropping up in those school districts.

The report concludes that resegregation is occurring because of changes in the racial makeup of communities and school-age children, and changes in the desegregation plans.

Several critics, however, question the report's analysis and conclusions given what is happening demographically. They point to the fact that higher income white and black families have moved to the suburbs or their children attend private schools. Says Stephan Thernstrom of the Manhattan Institute, "There are not enough white students to go around..." to racially balance urban schools.

Source: Ira J. Hadnot and Scott Parks, "Public schools resegregating, research finds," Dallas Morning News, January 19, 2003; based on Erica Frankenberg, Chungmei Lee, and Professor Gary Orfield, "A Multiracial Society with Segregated Schools: Are We Losing the Dream?" January 16, 2003, Civil Rights Project at Harvard University.


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