National Institute on Aging

University of Wisconsin Study Finds Persisting School Segregation

University-of-Wisconsin-Madison-logoA new study by Jeremy Fiel, a doctoral student in sociology at the University of Wisconsin, finds that American children are more segregated in schools today than they were 20 years ago. But the study, published in the American Sociological Review, finds that the segregation is not due to any intentional process to separate the races but rather due to the changing demographics of the nation’s public school systems and the residential segregation that persists in America.

Fiel says that by comparing school enrollment data to population statistics in neighborhoods surrounding the schools, he found that “the exposure of Blacks and Hispanics to Whites was actually higher than would be expected.” He notes that since busing and other methods to reduce racial segregation have gone out of favor, segregation has increased for the simple reason that the population of particular school districts are largely segregated by race. “Efforts to implement district-level desegregation would have minimal impact on the problem that people want to address, the separation of White and minority students.”

Fiel concludes, “We need to think more creatively, to find different ways to address the problem of larger-scale segregation or improve schools in spite of the segregation that exists.”


Comments (1)

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  1. mathprof says:

    Interesting, but it does not mitigate the fact that a great deal of residential segregation is, in fact, due to intentional factors that prevent social mobility. This would lead to not only racial segregation but also class segregation. Is this study trying to obscure that intentionality? Also, I am not convinced that the problem is “the separation of Whites and minority students.” The analysis would be more helpful it were coupled with an analysis of the quality of schooling, not just the composition.

    Moreover, in an era of mass school closings and charter schools, many communities and parent groups are fighting to maintain neighborhood schools. In racially hyper-segregated communities, the fight to maintain neighborhood schools seems to go against desegregation. So, I would disagree that the problem is the “separation of White and minority students?” School quality seems to the main issue. I would argue that White parents, for example, who argue for neighborhood schools are not overly concerned about the separation of White and minority students.

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