Perpetuating Separate and Unequal Worlds of Educational Opportunity Through District Lines: School Segregation by Race and Poverty

  • Jennifer B. Ayscue
  • Gary Orfield


School segregation has serious consequences for educational opportunity and success. Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data, this study explores the relationship between fragmentation—the degree to which metropolitan areas are split into many separate school districts—and segregation. Three measures of segregation—exposure, concentration, and evenness—are employed to analyze state- and metropolitan-level data between 1989 and 2010 in four states with different school district structures. Findings in this exploratory study indicate that states and metropolitan areas with more fragmented district structures are associated with higher levels of segregation. In comparison to the less fragmented states of North Carolina and Virginia, in the highly fragmented states of New York and New Jersey, the typical black and Latino student are exposed to smaller shares of white students, the typical white student is more isolated with other white peers, there are greater disparities in exposure to low-income students by race, the share of non-white segregated schools is substantially larger, and levels of multiracial unevenness are higher. Highly fragmented states and metropolitan areas cannot confront segregation by exclusively focusing their efforts within districts; instead, regional strategies could be used to make progress in desegregating schools across school district lines.


Desegregation Fragmentation School districts Boundaries Educational opportunity Diversity 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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