Resegregation Now, Resegregation Tomorrow, Resegregation Forever?


"American public schools are now twelve years into the process of continuous resegregation," says a new study from the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University that should be taken with several grains of salt but will not be. Dig the embargo statement on the press release to get an idea of how much dramatic effect the study's authors, Erica Frankenberg, Chungmei Lee and Professor Gary Orfield, were hoping to generate: "Please respect this embargo as we have selected it purposefully to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Day."

The study contains some interesting points: The most integrated region in the country is the South; Asians are most likely to live in integrated areas and attend integrated schools; the twenty-seven largest urban systems have lost the "vast majority" of their white enrollment whether or not they ever had significant desegregation plans (though another section of the report seems to say the opposite). That and some fire-and-brimstone language: mostly non-white institutions are "apartheid schools … the very kind of schools Dr. King fought to eliminate." Consider this:

Our schools are becoming steadily more nonwhite, as the minority student enrollment approaches 40% of all U.S. public school students, nearly twice the share of minority school students during the 1960s.

Since the chief goal of desegregation is to increase minority access to better public schools, shouldn't that figure be good news? The authors at one point call increasing private school enrollment by white students a "minor factor," but they point to it repeatedly to explain various developments; and anyway, since this 40% figure outpaces the demographic changes in the country, where are all those white students going? The report's suggested solutions do not, of course, make a case for school vouchers. But assuming that all the trends in this report are correct, that suggests there really is something to the argument that vouchers would benefit urban minority students the most.

Then again, I didn't go to Harvard.


NEXT: Counterintuitive Caldwell

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  1. The principle of forcible, state-implemented integration is just great! But why limit it to the community or neighborhood level? Right now the world population is about one quarter Chinese, and half East Asian; why doesn’t the population of the United States reflect this? And what is it with nearly 100% white Scandinavia? I demand that the world population be reshuffled until the demographic makeup of every point on the globe reflect the proportion of each ethnic and racial group in the world population! We need an America that looks like the world!

    Seriously, confusing state-enforced segregation with voluntary ethnic self-selection into neighborhoods is kind of like confusing an editor with a censor. Things like FHA redlining, segregated accomodations laws, and so forth, are undeniable evils. But a community of communities and ethnic enclaves is a GOOD thing. The very idea of ethnicity entails being FROM somewhere. In a homogenous mix of all ethnicities, equally distributed everywhere, no culture will survive in any authentic form very long.

  2. Being an employee of Yale I can firmly state that no one at Harvard could figure out where the seat of their pants was if they were sitting on their hands.

  3. Umm… because it’d be on their face?

  4. If a truly effective voucher plan ever gets implemented, it’ll be interesting to see what it does to property values. The situation we have now is the people on one side of a street whose kids go to a school system perceived as ‘better’ and the people living on the other side of the same street whose kids go to a school percieved as ‘worse’ will have dramatically different property values, even though they live in substantially the same neighborhood. Such is the pervasiveness of the school system influence on real estate that even people with no kids and no plans to have any care about what school district their house is located in, just for the resale value.
    I predict that in ‘border’ areas like this, the housing prices of the disadvantaged side will increase, while the housing prices on the priviledged side will decrease. Overall it’s a good thing, but it also is a political impediment to school choice.

  5. Once upon a time (so I hear, since this was before my time) public schools did a good job of educating children. But that is not the case anymore, particularly in the large metropolitan areas. The abismal quality of education in public schools is why so many people have pulled their children from public schools. It would be more useful to seperate public schools into metropolitan systems (e.g. NYC, Newark, Boston, Chicago, LA, etc) vs schools funded by smaller municipalities. The smaller municipalities seem to do a better job of managing the quality of
    their schools over larger metropolitan systems.

    BTW, on the voucher stuff… I was once talking
    to a person from Cali, and they had just
    defeated a voucher initiative. He told me the
    reason the voucher lost was because people from
    better school did not want the children from
    worse schools attending their schools. Funny.

  6. Grant:

    That’s because the people from the good schools are rich liberals who want you to do as they say, not as they do.

  7. “But a community of communities and ethnic enclaves is a GOOD thing. ”

    It is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. There’s no point in trying to “preserve” any culture’s purity any more than their is to “preserve” the purity of a hamburger by refraining from using mustard. Cultures evolve, borrow from others, discard, reverse, and mutate over time. The only kind of culture you can preserve is DEAD culture, as in from 5000 years ago when you only found about 2 pages worth of information about it.

    Oh, but wait. Maybe we should enforce cultural purity like they used to in ancient times – with executions. That would keep those pesky deviant artists pure.

  8. Take this study for what it is: a bunch of career academics from Harvard using a bunch of shocking and inflammatory language to pepper their otherwise run-of-the-mill study in order to get noticed. Nothing more, nothing less. Unfortunately, our news media will buy into their shocking and inflammatory language without much question. I fully expect to hear many sound bytes from this study on every news channel within a day or so.

  9. I am doing a paper on the resegregation of public schools for me graduate class. If any one has any good sources or research that I should look at please let me know . Thank you Jeff

  10. EMAIL:
    DATE: 12/10/2003 09:01:31
    To be poor without bitterness is easy; to be rich without arrogance is hard.

  11. EMAIL:
    DATE: 12/20/2003 11:39:24
    Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are `It might have been.

  12. EMAIL:
    DATE: 01/09/2004 11:09:58
    Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

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