Archived: Where Are Schools Most Segregated

By Chris Hoenig


The South is no longer the hub of school segregation, according to new research. In fact, it’s actually home to the least segregated schools.

With the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling approaching, UCLA’s Civil Rights Project has released “Brown at 60: Great Progress, a Long Retreat and an Uncertain Future,” its special research project on race and ethnicity in America’s schools.

The report finds that a shift in the racial and ethnic makeup of the country has also led to a shift in where school segregation for Blacks and Latinos is most common.

“The nation’s two largest regions, the South and West, now have a majority of what were called ‘minority’ students,” the authors write. “Whites are only the second-largest group in the West. The South, always the home of most Black students, now has more Latinos than Blacks and is a profoundly tri-racial region.”

The South has actually become the least-segregated region in the country, while the Northeast is now the most segregated. And while the percentage of Black students attending nearly all-Black schools dropped sharply in nearly every regionexcept for the Northeastafter the Brown v. Board of Education decision, it has increased steadily in every region over the past two-plus decades.

“Brown was a major accomplishment and we should rightfully be proud. But a real celebration should also involve thinking seriously about why the country has turned away from the goal of Brown and accepted deepening polarization and inequality in our schools,” Gary Orfield, co-author of the study and co-director of the Civil Rights Project, said. “It is time to stop celebrating a version of history that ignores our last quarter century of retreat and begin to make new history by finding ways to apply the vision of Brown in a transformed, multiracial society in another century.”

The study found that while the percentage of Blacks in the South attending schools that are at least 90 percent Black has gone up since 1989, the percentage in schools that are predominantly white has steadily dropped.

“Desegregation is not a panacea and it is not feasible in some situations,” said co-author Erica Frankenberg, Assistant Professor at Pennsylvania State University. “Where it is possibleand it still is possible in many areasdesegregation properly implemented can make a very real contribution to equalizing educational opportunities and preparing young Americans to live, work and govern together in our extremely diverse society.”

Among the findings, researchers discovered that segregation is a significantly more common occurrence now for Latinos than it is for Black students, particularly in America’s suburbs.

“Black and Latino students are an increasingly large percentage of suburban enrollment, particularly in larger metropolitan areas, and are moving to schools with relatively few white students,” the authors write. “Black and Latino students tend to be in schools with a substantial majority of poorchildren, while white and Asian students typically attend middle-class schools.

“Segregation is by far the most serious in the central cities of the largest metropolitan areas; the states of New York, Illinois and California are the top three worst for isolating Black students. California is the state in which Latino students are most segregated.

“Segregation for Blacks is the highest in the Northeast, a region with extremely high district fragmentation.”

The full report, including detailed state- and district-level tables, can be read here.

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