The Unforgiving Math of School Segregation

A blog about business and economics.
July 3 2013 10:14 AM

The Unforgiving Math of School Segregation

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 23: Students participate in the American Heart Association's Teaching Garden Plant Day at Moss Haven Elementary School on March 23, 2012 in Dallas, Texas.

Photo by Peter Larsen/Getty Images For The American Heart Association

Greg Kauffman offers a striking fact about de facto school segregation: "74 percent of African Americans still attend majority nonwhite schools, compared to just over 76 percent in the late 1960s."

There's abundant evidence that this is a bad situation for black kids. But it's worth underscoring that this isn't just about a "lack of commitment by the federal government and multiple decisions by the Supreme Court." According to the 2010 Census, Non-Hispanic whites were just 54 percent of the under-18 population. Back in 1980, they were 74 percent of the under-18 population. In other words, back in 1980 there were many more white schoolkids. And even though the 2010 Census was conducted recently, when you're talking about schoolkids and demographic change small numbers matter. The 17- and 18 year-old cohorts that are now ought of school will have been whiter than the 5- and 6-year old cohorts that are now in school. Among kids under the age of 5, non-Hispanic whites are a minority. Meanwhile, the white people are not distributed evenly across the country. You're not going urban minority kids to Maine and Idaho or the Texas panhandle so that they can attend more integrated schools. Nor are we about to ban the practice of rich people (who are disproproportionately white) from sending their kids to private schools.


So you're going to face a situation where most schools are majority-minority and the vast majority of minority kids are in majority-minority schools and there's not going to be anything you can do about it other than try to make those schools be really good schools. Public school systems simply don't have the capacity to conjure up the large quantities of city-dwelling white children who'd be needed to create a situation where everyone's attending an ethnically mixed but mostly white school.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.



Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.