NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Segregation in Religious Schools

June 27, 2002

Contrary to previous research, private religious schools -- particularly Roman Catholic ones -- are more racially segregated than public schools, claims a report from the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University.

  • Some 34 percent of blacks attend public schools that are considered heavily segregated -- meaning that less than 10 percent of students are white.
  • But 48 percent of black children in Catholic schools -- and 44 percent in other religious schools -- attend schools that are as strictly segregated.
  • Although whites make up a far greater share of the enrollment in religious schools than they do in public schools in the country's 20 largest metropolitan areas, blacks in religious schools are only slightly more likely to attend school with whites than blacks in public schools.

The report is viewed as an effort to undermine arguments supporting school vouchers, but the report's conclusions and methodology have been called into question.

For example, the report might have overstated racial mixing in public schools by not analyzing classroom figures. Within seemingly mixes public schools, blacks are often tracked into predominantly minority classrooms.

Also, critics argued, any measure that helped low-income families pay tuition -- such as vouchers -- would probably reduce segregation.

Source: Diana Jean Schemo, "Study Finds Parochial Schools Segregated Along Racial Lines," New York Times, June 27, 2002; John Yun & Sean F. Reardon, "Private School Racial Enrollments And Segregation," The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, June 2002.


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