Racial Segregation Rising in Suburban Schools, Study Says
STATE COLLEGE, Pa.
More minority families are moving from cities to suburbs, but residential segregation has resulted in rising racial segregation in suburban schools, according to a study by researchers at Pennsylvania State and Harvard universities.
Segregation in suburbs remains lower than in inner cities, says Dr. Sean F. Reardon, assistant professor of education and sociology at Pennsylvania State University and co-author of the report. But minorities who move to inner-ring suburbs are increasingly likely to find themselves in segregated communities with segregated schools.
“On average, suburban areas that had the most rapidly growing minority populations also had on average the most rapidly growing levels of segregation of minorities from Whites,” Reardon says. “That was true for Blacks as well as Hispanics and Asians, so it’s not simply a Black-White thing,” Reardon says, although he added that Blacks still faced the greatest degree of segregation.
Numbers for American Indians could not be calculated because there weren’t enough metropolitan areas with substantial American Indian populations.
Reardon and John T. Yun, a doctoral student at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, analyzed racial enrollment data for all suburban public schools in the United States from 1987 to 1995.
In a paper published in the current issue of the journal Sociology of Education, Reardon and Yun found that minorities tend to become concentrated in those suburbs closest to the center city. As a result, a small suburban school district can have a radically different demographic makeup than its neighbors.
Segregated minority schools, whether in cities, suburbs or rural areas, tend to have higher concentrations of poverty and fewer community resources for education, Reardon says.
“One point of the article is this is a disturbing trend, and we don’t want to let it get to the point where the inner ring of the suburbs begins to reproduce the effects of the inner cities,” Reardon says. “We are starting to see in some of those inner-ring suburbs high poverty rates, the kind of concentration effects that are a problem, while the outer ring of suburbs still tends to be very middle class, very White.”
Reardon also says he couldn’t determine whether minorities tended to seek out communities with like populations or whether Whites were leaving school districts as minorities moved in, saying the new segregation probably stemmed from a combination of factors.
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