The changing structure of school segregation: Measurement and evidence of multiracial metropolitan-area school segregation, 1989–1995


In this paper we examine aggregate patterns and trends in segregation among white (non-Hispanic), black, Hispanic, and Asian public school students in 217 metropolitan areas during the period 1989-1995. We first describe a set of methodological tools that enable us both to measure the mutual segregation among multiple racial groups and to partition total metropolitan-area school segregation into geographic and racial components. Then we use these tools to examine patterns and trends in metropolitan-area school segregation. We find that the average levels of multiracial school segregation have been unchanged from 1989 to 1995, but that this stability masks important shifts in the geographic and racial components making up average levels of total metropolitan school segregation. In particular, segregation between non-Hispanic white students and all other students has increased, on average, while segregation among black, Hispanic, and Asian student groups has declined. In addition, the contribution to average levels of total metropolitan segregation due to between-district segregation has grown, whereas the relative contribution of within-district segregation has declined.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Agresti, A. 1990. Categorical Data Analysis. New York: Wiley.

  2. Clotfelter, C.T. 1998. Public School Segregation in Metropolitan Areas. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.

  3. Denton, N.A. and D.S. Massey. 1988. “Residential Segregation of Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians by Socioeconomic Status and Generation.” Social Science Quarterly 69:797–817.

  4. —. 1991. “Patterns of Neighborhood Transition in a Multiethnic World: U.S. Metropolitan Areas, 1970–1980.” Demography 28:41–63.

  5. Duncan, O.D. and B. Duncan. 1955. “A Methodological Analysis of Segregation Indexes.” American Sociological Review 20: 210–17.

  6. Frey, W.H. and R. Farley. 1996. “Latino, Asian, and Black Segregation in U.S. Metropolitan Areas: Are Multiethnic Metros Different?” Demography 33:35–50.

  7. Krivo, L.J. and R.L. Kaufman. 1999. “How Low Can It Go? Declining Black-White Segregation in a Multiethnic Context.” Demography 36:93–109.

  8. Kulis, S. 1997. “Gender Segregation Among College and University Employees.” Sociology of Education 70:151–73.

  9. Littman, M.S. 1998. A Statistical Profile of the United States. Lanham, MD: Bernan Press.

  10. Massey, D.S. and N.A. Denton. 1987. “Trends in the Residential Segregation of Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians: 1970–1980.” American Sociological Review 52:802–25.

  11. —. 1988. “The Dimensions of Racial Segregation.” Social Forces 67:281–315.

  12. —. 1989a. “Hypersegregation in U.S. Metropolitan Areas: Black and Hispanic Segregation Along Five Dimensions.” Demography 26:373–91.

  13. —. 1989b. “Residential Segregation of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans in Selected U.S. Metropolitan Areas.” Sociology and Social Research 73:73–83.

  14. —. 1992. “Residential Segregation of Asian-Origin Groups in U.S. Metropolitan Areas.” Sociology and Social Research 76:170–77.

  15. Miller, V.P. and J.M. Quigley. 1990. “Segregation by Racial and Demographic Group: Evidence From the San Francisco Bay Area.” Urban Studies 27:3–21.

  16. National Center for Education Statistics. 1996. Common Core of Data (CCD): School Years 1987–88 Through 1995–96. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

  17. Orfield, G., M. Bachmeier, D. James, and T. Eitle. 1997. “Deepening Segregation in American Public Schools.” Cambridge, MA: Harvard Project on School Desegregation.

  18. Reardon, S.F. 1998. “Methods of Measuring Diversity and Segregation in Multi-Group Populations: With Examples Using Racial School Enrollment Data.” Presented at the annual meetings of the Eastern Sociological Society, March 19–22, Philadelphia.

  19. Reardon, S.F. and J.T. Yun. 1999. “Suburban Racial Change and Suburban School Segregation, 1987–1995.” Presented at the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association, August 6–10, Chicago.

  20. Rivkin, S.G. 1994. “Residential Segregation and School Integration.” Sociology of Education 67:279–92.

  21. Slater, C.M. and G.E. Hall. 1994. 1994 County and City Extra: Annual Metro, City and County Data Book. Lanham, MD: Bernan Press.

  22. Taeuber, K.E. and A.F. Taeuber. 1965. Negroes in Cities: Residential Segregation and Neighborhood Change. Chicago: Aldine.

  23. Theil, H. 1972. Statistical Decomposition Analysis. Amsterdam: North-Holland.

  24. Theil, H. and A.J. Finezza. 1971. “A Note on the Measurement of Racial Integration of Schools by Means of Informational Concepts.” Journal of Mathematical Sociology 1:187–94.

  25. U.S. Bureau of the Census. 1992. 1990 Census of Population: General Population Characteristics, United States. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce.

  26. White, M.J. 1987. American Neighborhoods and Residential Differentiation. New York: Russell Sage.

Case Cited

  1. Milliken, Governor of Michigan, et al. v. Bradley et al., 418 U.S. 717 (1974).

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Sean F. Reardon.

Additional information

The first two authors contributed equally to the preparation of this paper. The authors thank the Spencer Foundation Small Grants Program for generous support for this research. The first author also thanks the Harvard Children’s Initiative Postdoctoral Fellowship in Evaluating Children’s Programs for additional support. The authors thank Gary Orfield as well as three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the annual meetings of the American Educational Research Association, held in Montreal, April 19–23, 1999.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Reardon, S.F., Yun, J.T. & Eitle, T.M. The changing structure of school segregation: Measurement and evidence of multiracial metropolitan-area school segregation, 1989–1995. Demography 37, 351–364 (2000) doi:10.2307/2648047

Download citation


  • Metropolitan Area
  • White Student
  • Residential Segregation
  • Asian Student
  • Suburban District