Segregation in the United States Public School System

This essay sample was donated by a student to help the academic community. Papers provided by EduBirdie writers usually outdo students' samples.

Cite this essay cite-image

In order to address how the district census affects education in lower-income and minority communities, one must first understand the modern definition of segregation. Heterogeneous areas that are broken into smaller, less diverse areas often have large discrepancies in school quality. The politics of exclusion theory maintains that political boundaries regulate housing, tax, and other resource policies in a way that protects and isolates its residents. Boundaries make residential sorting decisions more efficient because they convey demographic and socioeconomic differences that may otherwise be hard to discern, such as educational opportunities. Spatial proximity to high-income, high resource areas may seem advantageous, but official political boundaries exclusively dictate access and entitlement to resources. Since the repeal of the mandatory busing introduced in the 1970s as a way to combat public school segregation, the disparity between races in public schools has risen steadily. Segregation is ‘inherently unequal’, but the way segregation is viewed today doesn’t necessarily reflect the decision of the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education. Segregation in schools now is largely impacted by political fragmentation. Political fragmentation is a race-neutral process that does not overtly produce segregation. As fragmentation grows as does segregation at an increasing rate. Fragmentation increases between-district segregation and enables racial differences to dictate a residential location. People choose their residence based on socioeconomic or class-based factors. In general, people from minority groups cannot pay as much as whites, leading to further racial segregation. People statistically discriminate to make decisions based on observed correlations, such as the proportion of minorities in a school district and the quality of the schools. Jurisdiction can bar low-income families from areas with better neighborhood schools by restricting the development of multi-family housing or establishing a large minimum lot sizes for single-family homes. Thus, increases racial segregation, but minimizes the need for public services and generates more tax revenue from the expensive homes. Public schools in these jurisdictions are often well-funded and achieve higher test scores because the district can funnel more money into education. Institutional boundaries focus on factors consequential for equality of opportunity, such as the aforementioned quality of public schools. Institutional boundary-based segregation may be more pertinent for assessing the negative consequences associated with segregation. Major focal points of minority settlements include predominantly urban areas. Residential segregation within districts represents district policies about student assignments to different schools. The large economic disparity in many major urban areas in the United States reflects the results of residential segregation in public schools.

Throughout major metropolitan areas in the United States, public schools face an extreme racial divide. For example, in New York State, the five boroughs of New York City represent nearly 60% of the state’s black students. However, out of thirty-two Office of School Design (OSD) schools in New York City, nineteen had 10% or less white students in 2010. 73% of the public charter schools in the five boroughs can be considered apartheid schools and 90% of them can be at least considered intensely segregated with less than 10% white students. New York City public schools continue to remain among the most segregated in the United States. Out of the 895 slots in the freshman class at the selective specialized high school, Stuyvesant, only seven of the slots were allotted to black students. New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio, previously planned to discard and overrule the Hecht-Calandra Act which required the specialized high school exam; however, he was met with severe backlash. Many New York residents and legislators believe this exam to be a disadvantage to minority students due to the severe underfunding of segregated public schools throughout the five boroughs. Evidently, racial and socioeconomic segregation in New York has become more pronounced in New York City than five decades ago. In 2016, a proposal to send Manhattan’s Upper West Side children, who were zoned for a high-performing, white majority, wealthy public school, to a lower-performing school attended by mainly low-income black and Hispanic students by bus (roughly a ten-minute walk from zoned school) was met with vitriol. This can be seen as evidence of residential segregation which resulted from the blockbusting scam in the 1950s and 1960s. The blockbusting scam was orchestrated by realtors who scared whites into selling their homes, therefore opening up their homes to African-Americans. At this time, African-Americans grew impatient for better housing and realtors realized they could potentially gain huge profits by exploiting racial tensions. The relators initiated the scam by buying a house or property on an all-white block and then encouraging an African-American family to purchase it. The realtors would then go around the block warning the white families on the block that black people were going to ‘invade’ their community, claiming that the black families would ruin the neighborhood and decrease the property values on the block. Thus, led to white families selling their homes brashly at low values, to which the realtors would quickly sell them to black families at a much higher price, exploiting their vulnerability and desperation for housing. Blockbusting, however, no longer a common occurrence, opened the doors for policies that explicitly encourage racial segregation such as ‘redlining’. Redlining, the process of refusing a loan or insurance to someone because they live in an area deemed to be a poor financial risk, can be seen as a direct effect of solidifying the residential segregation that exists today.

The Upper West Side, to follow the previous example, is 66.9% white. Hispanics follow as the second-largest racial/ethnic group at just 13.5%, followed by blacks at 7.6%. Since the neighborhood is predominantly white, it can be assumed that the public schools would be as well. However, to be considered a diverse district, no one race can make up more than 75% of students. Therefore, the possibility of greater integration in the Upper West Side school district is plausible. Looking at New York City through a greater lens than just the Upper West Side brings the severity of racial segregation in public schools into a much harsher light. School segregation increased between school districts from 1970-2000, but declined within districts. The elimination of court-mandated desegregation efforts in many districts in the 1970s was largely responsible for the rise in racial segregation. The efforts included mandatory busing, similar to the proposed plan for the Upper West Side public schools. Racial populations in schools are largely determined by the racial composition of the schools’ attendance boundaries. If all children residing in a school catchment area attended the local school, the racial composition of the school and neighborhood would be theoretically identical. This does not account for private schools, charter schools, and magnet schools.

Save your time!
We can take care of your essay
  • Proper editing and formatting
  • Free revision, title page, and bibliography
  • Flexible prices and money-back guarantee
Place Order

Statistics show that white children are more likely to attend private schools as the percentage of non-whites in their neighborhoods increases. Over 60% of New York City students who attend non-public school (i.e., private or religious schools) are white. Comparably, about 15% of students at traditional, neighborhood public schools are white, while the majority (40%) are Hispanic, and just under 30% are black. Racial segregation is greater in traditional neighborhood-based public schools than across school catchment areas, as a result of white children leaving public schools at higher rates than minority children, particularly when school attendance boundaries are racially balanced. School choice need not be a barrier to racial integration if students’ mobility is restricted in ways that limit the ability of white children to be isolated from non-white children. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2016 two-parent households had the highest percentage for sending their children to private schools at 89%. At the same time, 69% of private school students were white, while only about 10% were black and Hispanic. In Manhattan, private schools are ubiquitous. Private schools within the attendance boundaries of public schools have a strong and negative impact on the percentage of white students in said public schools. One private school in a catchment area of a public school alone accounts for 1.6% less white students in the public school. Once the number of private schools in the catchment area reaches or surpasses three, the number of white students in public schools becomes over 10.2% less. The availability of nearby private schools appears to be correlated with the percentage of white students in public schools. Private, magnet and charter schools all exacerbate segregation within school districts. White and black children are redistributed in private, charter, and magnet schools unevenly, which furthers racial segregation. Traditional integration programs have been aimed at reducing the impact of segregation between white and black students. However, school districts with desegregation policies show little movement toward the integration of white and Hispanic children. The distribution of white children across public and other school options leads to a more substantial gap in segregation between white and Hispanic students.

Some school districts such as San Diego, Duval, Pinellas, and Milwaukee have many neighborhood-based specialty schools designed for racial desegregation. These schools have had a positive effect on integrating white and black children in schools relative to existing segregation in neighborhoods. However, other major metropolitan areas, such as Denver, continue to face high segregation rates within public schools. Since mandatory busing was lifted in 1995, Denver school segregation has steadily climbed. Van Schoales, president of A+ Colorado, spoke on this topic, sharing that “after busing ended, [school] boundary lines were drawn, and they reinforced the existing housing patterns”. The history of segregation in Denver can be traced back to how the school board drew campus boundary lines in 1995. The results of resegregation were predictable because the housing was quite segregated and there was a high demand for the reintroduction of neighborhood schools. Neighborhoods became branded as home to one race or another because urban housing projects were developed at a time when blacks faced overt discrimination in government housing programs, zoning, and mortgage lending. In nearby Fork Valley, Colorado, census data shows that 46% of all five to seventeen-year-olds living in the district are white. However, only 41% of the students in Fork Valley public schools are white, which suggests a number of families are opting for alternative schooling. Thus reiterates the increased racial divide from non-public schools. Segregation between districts remains high in other metropolitan (or suburban areas near major cities) areas as well. In Alabama, Birmingham public school student bodies are 91% black. However, in neighboring Mountain Brook, 96% of students are white. Integration isn’t always possible within districts because many United States school districts do not have enough diversity to integrate. However, if the two aforementioned districts were to integrate with one and other, the racial segregation between districts would close and create a more diverse district. Integration benefits children of all races. Children of color do better academically in integrated schooling environments and white students do no worse. Other areas that have continued to see reversals in integration gains include Charleston, South Carolina, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Chicago, Illinois. Chicago continues to be among one of the least integrated school districts in the country. School desegregation plans have almost exclusively focused on within district transfers since busing. However, interdistrict transfers would most likely be the most effective way to desegregate schools as mentioned in the example of Birmingham and Mountain Brook public schools above. School district consolidation would diminish segregation between districts by decreasing fragmentation.

In 2006, based on the CDC, black and white racial segregation only continued to increase over the course of the decade before. This was a result of the reversal of the desegregation patterns from the 1960s-1990s. During the period of time between 1990-2000, nationwide school districts experienced a two-point increase on average in school segregation. However, during this time period, residential segregation declined by four-points. Such data would imply that the less segregated residential areas should, therefore, have less segregated schools. Based on the way much of the United States has chosen to draw their district boundary lines, the public school systems continue to be extremely segregated. In New York state in 2010, nearly 50% of public school students came from low-income families. Additionally, the school where the typical black or Latino student attended, 70% of their classmates were low-income. In Buffalo, NY, for example, public schools that are attended by majority white students have about 30%, low-income students. Public schools that are primarily attended by black students contrast with about 73% of low-income students, about two and a half times more than their white counterparts. The divide of race between districts is largely impacted by the residential preferences of individuals, which is heavily weighted by the racial composition of a neighborhood. White people are less likely to live in a neighborhood where the number of non-white (primarily black) residents increases. White families have statistically higher incomes than minority families. About 26% of poor/near-poor families chose a public school for their children. In the next year, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that white children will no longer constitute the American majority. In 2017, nearly four in ten school districts, about two-thirds of all public school students, had enough diversity to make integration possible. With the number of minority children on the rise, integration should become inevitable unless districts decide to close off even more, further segregating the American public school system.

In conclusion, the district census numbers show that integration is possible within many districts and if not between most districts. Segregation was far lower in districts that grew diverse between 1995 and 2017, therefore with the impending loss of the majority, white children can expect their communities and potentially districts to become more diverse. If the 2020 census data reflects the aforementioned prediction, school districts could potentially become less segregated and minority and low-income students may gain the opportunity to achieve the education many of their white counterparts have for decades. Modern-day segregation is not forced as it had been prior to the Supreme Court ruling of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. However, research has shown that white families make efforts to live in predominantly white neighborhoods, resulting in racially divided districts. Research by Salvatore Saporito and Deenesh Sohoni (2006) compared the percentage of white students enrolled in traditional public schools with the percentage of white students living in each school’s catchment area. The same researchers conducted a regression analysis to determine whether the proportion of white children in schools was more highly associated with the proportion of black children or Hispanic children in their attendance areas. Saporito and Sohoni found lower percentages of white students in public schools than in their school’s attendance boundaries. They included a hypothetical regression line that shows the proportion of white students who would be enrolled in traditional neighborhood schools. When paired with the actual regression line, about 5% fewer white students were enrolled in public schools. The curvilinear regression line, which depicts the relationship between schools and their neighborhoods, showed that the difference between the percentage of white students and their catchment areas is greatest in districts that have roughly equal proportions of white and non-white students. Where schools were expected to be nearly equal proportions of white and nonwhite students precisely mark where white children were most underrepresented in schools relative to their neighborhoods. From further research, the presence of Hispanic students was found to have a slightly greater association than the percentage of black students with decreased white attendance. Scholars Wells and Crain, theorize that white and wealthier students will take steps to maintain their social status by distancing themselves from groups that they perceive to be of lower standing. From this viewpoint, the broadening of educational options of students would add another layer of stratification to an educational system that is already variegated by race and class. The district census can aid the reintegration of schools by combining districts and catchment areas, however, if wealthier and white families continue to aim to isolate themselves from minorities, the reintegration process will be much more difficult for state school boards to execute. By identifying the key factors of segregation in the United States public school system, the census can be used to determine the appropriate actions to reintegrate schools, without disrupting the substantial residential segregation that certain communities seek to obtain.

Make sure you submit a unique essay

Our writers will provide you with an essay sample written from scratch: any topic, any deadline, any instructions.

Cite this paper

Segregation in the United States Public School System. (2023, September 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
“Segregation in the United States Public School System.” Edubirdie, 08 Sept. 2023,
Segregation in the United States Public School System. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 May 2024].
Segregation in the United States Public School System [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Sept 08 [cited 2024 May 26]. Available from:

Join our 150k of happy users

  • Get original paper written according to your instructions
  • Save time for what matters most
Place an order

Fair Use Policy

EduBirdie considers academic integrity to be the essential part of the learning process and does not support any violation of the academic standards. Should you have any questions regarding our Fair Use Policy or become aware of any violations, please do not hesitate to contact us via

Check it out!
search Stuck on your essay?

We are here 24/7 to write your paper in as fast as 3 hours.