U.S. fact of the day

by on January 17, 2011 at 1:16 pm in Data Source, Education | Permalink

American schools are more segregated by race and class today than they were on the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, 43 years ago. The average white child in America attends a school that is 77 percent white, and where just 32 percent of the student body lives in poverty. The average black child attends a school that is 59 percent poor but only 29 percent white. The typical Latino kid is similarly segregated; his school is 57 percent poor and 27 percent white.

Overall, a third of all black and Latino children sit every day in classrooms that are 90 to 100 percent black and Latino.

That's via Ezra Klein, Dana Goldstein post here, source here.  In the meantime, and quite on point, here is one of Chris Christie's biggest mistakes.

Addendum: Here is from Matt Yglesias, another contender for U.S. fact of the day:

If the country as a whole had the same average population density as New Hampshire (!) it would contain about 522 million people…

1 Doc Merlin January 17, 2011 at 9:20 am

Most of the western US and Alaska is empty federal land.

2 Neal January 17, 2011 at 9:33 am

The segregation is because we have stopped forcing people to go to school where they don't want to go.

3 Steamer January 17, 2011 at 9:37 am

Apart from the fact that after this sentence of Dana Goldstein's article:

"First, we need to fight poverty and economic inequality broadly."

I felt the compelling need to vomit my stomach out, I have a relatively more relevant question:

Can someone sum up the evidence that school segregation (even if it is the product of residential segregation), is not actually a spontaneous order phenomenon? And, more importantly – what follows from that?

4 zachk January 17, 2011 at 9:38 am

If the whole country had the same population density as manhattan, the country's total population would be ~270 billion people

5 Indy January 17, 2011 at 9:47 am

Joshua Dunn's book, "Complex Justice" about the "desegregation" aspect of this phenomenon as it played out in Kansas City is quite good. It's not just segregation – it's urban exile and a complete upheaval of the way in which cities worked and where the middle class lived.

People didn't separate within an existing metropolitan area's confines and establish something akin to "ethnic neighborhoods" in the extant housing stock – they established completely new suburban communities from scratch out of farmland to escape.

Also, people often overemphasize the racial aspect of the segregation. Many left to flee the control of a particular jurisdiction limited by territory. Many parents were extremely dissatisfied with legitimate schooling issues – discipline, violence, curriculum, etc… and concluded that working within the heavily-politicized system was futile. So they voted with their feet. The ones that left were the one's that cared most about it, resulting in the "creaming" phenomenon – with feeds on itself iteratively.

Kansas City is a good example. The city abuts a state line that is also the limit of the Western District of Missouri Federal Court's power. Move a mile West and you're in a different city, school district, taxing authority, state, federal district, etc…

6 theparkgrades January 17, 2011 at 9:54 am

Unbelievable racism in some of these comments.

I agree with Indy's comment. The question becomes: what are the limits to "voting with your feet"? Can we just keep running forever and ever and ever?

7 Finch January 17, 2011 at 9:57 am

> 80% of NH's population lives in the southern 20% land area.

It's like a little tiny Canada.

8 Floccina January 17, 2011 at 10:17 am

More segregated by race than in 1968. I find that hard to believe, I wonder what is his source.

9 charlie January 17, 2011 at 10:42 am

Outside Alaska, if would be about 420 million, which isn't much more than the current 300 million. Take away Nevada and Montana, and I suspect most of the lower 48 is already at NH levels. And who knows how they are counting Hawaii is which is technically half water.

10 Jim January 17, 2011 at 10:49 am

White schools == 32% poor
Black schools == 59% poor
Latino schools == 57% poor


The takeaway here is that our definition of "poor" is clearly retarded.

11 Rich Berger January 17, 2011 at 11:03 am


Maybe I am too dense to perceive the obvious, but why do you consider the autism schools one of Chris Christie's biggest mistakes?

12 Steamer January 17, 2011 at 11:10 am

"It so happens that poor people in the US are disproportionally black and Hispanic."

That's actually wrong, although blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be poor, more than half of the poor people in USA are non-whites Hispanics (due to them being a larger percentage of the populaton).

13 Steamer January 17, 2011 at 11:11 am

Sorry, I meant non-Hispanic whites.

14 save_the_rustbelt January 17, 2011 at 11:14 am

Education segregation is driven by housing segregation which is driven by lack of economic success which is driven by education segregation etc etc etc.

The debate about mainstreaming versus special programs for special needs students goes back at least to the sixties, with vocal proponents for and against for any number of reasons.

Some of it has to do with administrative and operational efficiency, some with disruption of main stream classes rooms by special needs students, thereby upsetting lots and lots of other parents.

15 Jay January 17, 2011 at 11:28 am

If the country as a whole had the same racial composition as New Hampshire (!) it would be like a giant sized Scandinavia …

16 Andrew January 17, 2011 at 11:55 am

Diversity is homogeneity.

17 Robin January 17, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Why hasn't anyone pointed out the blatant attempts by public schools to reinforce segregation through special educational assignments.

Louisville's school system was forced to enact a bussing program and was prohibited from segregating based upon race. Their solution was to segregate based upon test scores and ship all of the smart kids to magnet schools and specialized academic tracks. It just so happens that the kids with the best test scores happened to be the rich, white kids that were the most likely to leave for the private school system.

The premier magnet school with a 97% college attendance rate has a student population that is 80% white and only 20% poor while the district average on both those statistics is about 50%.

I know that residential segregation and white flight are prime culprits, but don't overlook magnet school and educational tracking as bureaucratically sponsored means of maintaining segregation.

18 Andrew January 17, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Maybe we need to separate education into 1) not doing the wrong thing and 2) doing the right thing. If you keep quiet you are welcome to stay in the class and listen even if you are a dumbass.

19 agnostic January 17, 2011 at 12:34 pm

This supports the argument I made on when blacks and whites come together, using cultural data over time. The school segregation data show the same picture — increase in joining up during the second half of the '70s and through about 1991-92, then re-segregation afterwards:

The cause is the crime rate, which peaked around '91 or '92 and has been plummeting since. Read the link to see why this explains it.

20 Michael Tinkler January 17, 2011 at 1:20 pm

And if we fit the entire population into Texas with the density of Manhattan wouldn't we each have room for a double-wide?

These are meaningless comparisons that ignore minor things like topography, let alone history.

21 Steve Sailer January 17, 2011 at 1:25 pm

The behavior of affluent Asians parents in the San Gabriel Valley in Los Angeles County is illuminating. Through selective home-buying, they've put certain school districts, such as San Marino and Arcadia, on the path to being segregated Asian strongholds.

22 someguy January 17, 2011 at 1:38 pm

David Wright,

I took a quick look and saw the same thing. I am pretty sure that it does not provide any data that would indicate that schools are more segregated today than 43 years ago.

I don't think it even makes that claim.

Even the comparisions from 1988 to 2006 often seem like apples to unsourced organges.

And when I could compare the comparision didn't really seem to be supporting the claims all that clearly or strongly.

See Tables 5 and 6.

So for % of White Students in School of Average

Student by Race from 1988 vs 2006

For Black goes down from 35.2 to 29.4.

For Latin goes down from 32.3 to 27.0.

For White goes down from 83.4 to 76.6.

So, yea, if you have relatively fewer white kids you might expect the % of white Students in school to go down for the average black and white and Latin student. At least I think that might be so.

Not sure that would really mean less integration. I would also add I am not sure that is what even happened and/or I didn't make mistake.

But I after reading the source I am pretty unconvinced that American schools are more segregated by race and class today than they were on the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, 43 years ago

23 mravery January 17, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Of all the comments in this post, my favorite is albert magnus's implying that the reason schools are segregated is that blacks and latinos aren't trying hard enough to be rich. (If tongue-in-cheek, it was quite witty; otherwise, depressing.)

Cosmopolitanism is a public good. Everyone benefits from being accepted by different cultures but no one wants to pay the cost of accepting those with cultures different from them. As such, I have no problem with the government stepping in to provide this public good by mandating integrated classrooms, both racial and socioeconomically (since these are the best proxy we have for cultural identity).

24 John Fast January 17, 2011 at 2:37 pm

I don't know whether to call Dana Goldstein's post an example of someone praising an emperor's new wardrobe, because that's not exactly what it is, but it's close enough.

1. I completely agree with her that government schools are incredibly racially segregated.

2. I am very skeptical that government schools are any more segregated than their actual neighborhoods are.

3. I am completely against segregation (or any other policy) that is forced by law.

4. I can think of a few reasons why cultural segregation might be harmful, and plenty of reasons why it might be helpful. For example, it might provide a better education for hispanic students to be in a Spanish-speaking classroom with a hispanic teacher. I don't know whether this would help or not — but I think that anyone who claims it will never help is probably a fool, or dishonest, or both.

5. There are plenty of minority-rights advocates who support voluntary minority-only programs, such as minority-only dorms on college campuses, presumably because they believe in the point I made in the preceding paragraph.

6. If we want to improve the quality of education, then as far as I can see the most important things we can do are (in order of priority) to have competition/choice (e.g. vouchers); performance standards for teachers (including merit pay, and the abolition of tenure); and the reforms suggested by Charles Murray in Losing Ground (of which the biggest is to require a competence test in each subject at the end of each grade; if you don't pass the test, you don't advance to the next class in that subject).

7. If you don't care about the education of our kids, and instead have some other agenda, then you deserve to drop dead for sacrificing innocent lives for your own purposes.

25 dirk January 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm

"By the way, how is increasing the population of the U.S. by 212 million going to reduce global carbon emissions, considering that the average American emits four times as much carbon as the average Mexican and an order of magnitude more than the average Central American?"

Nothing is ever going to reduce global carbon emissions until the day oil extraction is more expensive than alternative energy, which is likely more than a century away. No more point in worrying about it now than worrying that we are all going to die someday anyway.

26 Steve Sailer January 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Dirk snarks: "Other than you and Moldbug, who believes that is the conventional wisdom?"

I dunno, Bill Clinton?

From Hua Hsu's "The End of White America?" in The Atlantic:

"For some, the disappearance of this centrifugal core heralds a future rich with promise. In 1998, President Bill Clinton, in a now-famous address to students at Portland State University, remarked:

"'Today, largely because of immigration, there is no majority race in Hawaii or Houston or New York City. Within five years, there will be no majority race in our largest state, California. In a little more than 50 years, there will be no majority race in the United States. No other nation in history has gone through demographic change of this magnitude in so short a time … [These immigrants] are energizing our culture and broadening our vision of the world. They are renewing our most basic values and reminding us all of what it truly means to be American.'"

27 dirk January 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Other than you, Moldbug and Bill Clinton, who believes that is the conventional wisdom?

28 dirk January 17, 2011 at 3:29 pm

I agree with John Fast: this is a dog bites man story. It made the press because today is national dog bites man day.

29 Highgamma January 17, 2011 at 4:07 pm

I found these numbers a little unbelievable so I did a quick web search on "Children Under 18 Living in Poverty" and got the following link: http://npc.umich.edu/poverty/

In 2008, 21% of children live below the poverty line. 35% of black children and 33% of Hispanic children live below the poverty line. So my question is who are the children that black children are going to school with that would leave them with 59% of the kids being poor? It doesn't seem to me that it would be black or Hispanic children. Unless this is some kind of averages of percentages without proper weighting effect.

30 Derek Scruggs January 17, 2011 at 9:08 pm

I grew up in rural Georgia. Prior to 1970 my high school was 100% white. By the time I graduated from there in the mid 80s, it was about 30% black. I don't know how anyone could insinuate a lack of progress.

31 Andrew January 18, 2011 at 1:02 am

I think you are only entitled to my kid's positive externalities if you are free.

32 tcnh_89 January 18, 2011 at 6:53 am

The use of the word "in poverty" here is inaccurate. While, per To, children are disproportionately affected by poverty, approximately 21% of the children of the US live in poverty. Thus, it is not true and cannot be true that white children go to schools where 32% of the students live in poverty, African-American children go to schools where 59% of the students live in poverty, Latino children go to school where 57% of the students live in poverty, etc.

Rather, the underlying article is measuring the percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced price lunches, which goes up to 185% of the poverty line, or just under $41,000 for a family of four, $54,631 for a family of six (and many non-cash government benefits are not included). The underlying article calls this "low-income," not "in poverty." Goldstein then hypes the numbers as being the percentage "in poverty" and everyone else uncritically passes them along that way. This is how bad statistics get started.

33 Bunker Brown January 18, 2011 at 9:57 am

Careless: Yes. If you drop out, you lose your 'right' to an education and should be expelled.

34 colin January 18, 2011 at 5:32 pm

The segregation post is a highly unfair illustration of the last 40 years,even if it only cites facts. As mentioned earlier, they simply didn't compare to actual history.

In Souther states in 1960, 0.1% of black students attended majority white schools. That compares to 27% in 2005 (though that is down from a peak of 43% in the late 80s). I call that progress.

There is also a slight trend for the entire nation on some measure. In 2005, 73% of black students attend predominantly minority schools (>50% minority students). That number was 77% in 1968. It fell as low as 63% in the 80s.

Alternatively, in 2005, 38% of black students were in intensely segregated schools (>90% minority students); that compares to 64% in 1968; that number fell as low as 32% in 1988…. it would be interesting to see if the reversal of trend was the result of a purely racial issues, or is simply a function of demographics + the widening income gap.


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