Coloring Outside the Lines: Racial Segregation in Public Schools and their Attendance Boundaries

Salvatore Saporito, College of William and Mary
Deenesh S. Sohoni, College of William and Mary

In a series of scholarly articles James Coleman hypothesized that student enrollment in private schools does not change levels of racial segregation in public schools. We test this hypothesis directly by comparing the actual racial composition of schools and the racial composition of school-aged children living in their corresponding attendance areas. To make this comparison we link maps of school attendance boundaries with 2000 Census data, the Common Core of Data, and the Private School Survey for the 22 largest U.S. school districts. Results show that public schools would be less racially segregated if all children living in a school district attended their local, neighborhood schools. Similarly, we find that private, magnet, and charter schools contribute to overall racial segregation within school districts. The effects are particularly striking for segregation between white and Hispanic children. Finally, a few school districts with formal desegregation policies succeed in reducing racial segregation.

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Presented in Poster Session 4: Migration, Income, Employment, Neighborhoods and Residential Context