NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Private Schools are More Racially Integrated

July 10, 2002

Having failed to stop school vouchers on the grounds of separation of church and state, voucher opponents are placing their hopes on the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. They are launching the argument that school vouchers would increase impermissible racial segregation.

A recent report from the Harvard Civil Rights Project introduced the issue by claiming that public schools are less racially segregated than private ones. But the evidence is otherwise.

An analysis by Jay P. Greene and other studies have established that public schools are less integrated than their private counterparts.

  • Some 55 percent of public school 12th graders nationwide are in racially segregated classrooms -- where more than 90 percent of the students are of the same background -- compared to 41 percent of private school 12th graders.
  • In a study of school lunchrooms, 79 percent of private school students sat in a group in which at least one of the five adjacent students was of a different racial background -- compared to only 43 percent of public school students.
  • In Cleveland, 61 percent of students in the metropolitan area attended schools that were racially segregated -- compared to 50 percent of the students attending private schools with voucher students.

Unlike most public schools, attendance at private schools is not constrained by politically-drawn boundaries. By denying students access to schools in neighborhoods and districts other than those in which they live, public schools replicate and even reinforce segregated housing patterns, experts say.

Source: Jay P. Greene (Manhattan Institute), "Choosing Integration," Wall Street Journal, July 8, 2002.


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