Study finds widespread school segregation

A report from Northeastern researchers found widespread segregation throughout schools in the country's 100 largest metro areas. Getty images.

September 20, 2010

A new report published by researchers at Northeastern University ranking public, primary schools in the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas finds that New England has four of the top 10 most segregated areas for Hispanic students. Springfield, Mass., is ranked second in the nation behind Los Angeles.

The report shows that 73 percent of Hispanic students in Springfield would have to switch schools for enrollment to become desegregated.

The researchers also found that segregation was highest for black students, particularly in older Midwest and Northeast metropolitan areas concluding that in Chicago, Milwaukee, New York, Detroit, and Cleveland, over 80 percent of black students would have to move to another school in order for the metro area to be completely desegregated. Click here to read a story by The Boston Globe.

“This year, students returned to schools that remain largely separate and unequal,” says Nancy McArdle, adjunct associate professor in the Institute on Urban Health Research at Northeastern’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences.  “Many people are surprised to see that Springfield, Boston, Hartford, and Providence rank in the top 10 of most segregated areas for Hispanic children.”

Overall, researchers found that black and Hispanic children are disproportionately segregated and concentrated in high-poverty schools compared to white children throughout the country’s major metropolitan areas.

The following table shows the top 10 most and least segregated metros for blacks and Hispanics:  

Most segregated Most segregated Least segregated Least segregated
(black students) (Hispanic students) (black students) (Hispanic students)
1. Chicago, IL 1. Los Angeles, CA 1. Lakeland, FL 1. Honolulu, HI
2. Milwaukee, WI 2. Springfield, MA 2. El Paso, TX 2. Palm Bay, FL
3. New York, NY 3. New York, NY 3. Honolulu, HI 3. Raleigh, NC
4. Detroit, MI 4. Boston, MA 4. Boise City, ID 4. Virginia Beach, VA
5. Cleveland, OH 5. Hartford, CT 5. Albuquerque, NM 5. Lakeland, FL
6. Youngstown, OH 6. Cleveland, OH 6. Modesto, CA 6. Augusta, GA
7. Syracuse, NY 7. Chicago, IL 7. Raleigh, NC 7. Jacksonville, FL
8. Cincinnati, OH 8. Milwaukee, WI 8. Greenville, NC 8. Colorado Springs., CO
9. Springfield, MA 9. Providence, RI 9. Las Vegas, NV 9. Akron, OH
10. Indianapolis, IN 10. Allentown, PA 10. Santa Rosa, CA 10. Toledo, OH

 Some of the report’s key findings include:

• Enrollment is already “majority-minority” nationally but differs substantially across regions, with the West being almost two-thirds minority.
• Residential segregation and school assignment plans lead to high levels of school racial segregation, particularly for blacks.
• Metropolitan areas with the highest school poverty rates are concentrated in California and the Deep South.
• 43 percent of black and Hispanic students attend schools with poverty rates over 80 percent, compared to 4 percent of white students.
• Even within the same metro areas, black and Hispanic students attend schools with dramatically higher poverty rates than whites or Asians. Bridgeport and Hartford have the largest disparities.

Based on 2008-09 school year data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the report, “Segregation and Exposure to High-Poverty Schools in Large Metropolitan Areas,” is published by www.diversitydata.org, an online resource developed by the three Northeastern co-authors:  McArdle; Dolores Acevedo-García, associate professor and associate director of the Institute on Urban Health Research; and Theresa Osypuk, assistant professor of health sciences.

In addition, researchers point to links between racial isolation and concentrated poverty. They said children in high-poverty schools face large challenges, such as lower student graduation rates, less involved parents, and less experienced teachers.

To address inequalities, they said national policies must lead to stronger enforcement of fair housing laws, improving school and neighborhood quality, and allowing students to cross district boundaries to attend better schools.

“Schools should be designed to prepare all our students to excel,” said Acevedo-García. “The fact that such gross levels of disparity continue in American public schools must not be met with apathy or acceptance but be confronted to ensure that our children and our nation can thrive in an increasingly diverse and challenging world.” 

Archives

The following news stories and features are available. For information about older content, please contact University Communications and Public Relations at (617) 373-5471.

2010

Share

Share this on Facebook          Delicious