Sixty Years after Brown v Board, Are Our Schools Any Less Segregated?

Sixty years ago saw the historic official end to racial segregation in US public schools with the landmark Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education. Change began to rock the nation, first in ripples and then in waves, and racism, at least systemically, is something we’re glad to be rid of.

Or so high school history teaches us.

Sixty years after the historic ruling of Brown v. Board of Education, how much has really changed? Are our schools really less segregated than they were when it was decided?

According to the Pew Research Center, the answer is: not really.

2010 saw almost 16% of white students attending schools where at least 50% of the total student population came from ethnic minorities. On the other side, most ethnic minority students attended schools where the student population’s majority came from ethnic minorities, 60% of Asian students and over 75% of Hispanic and black students, specifically. When it comes to public schools, the minorities are growing in number, with Hispanic, black, and Asian students rising in public school attendance by 8.9%. Meanwhile, white students are becoming less prevalent in public schools, going from 68% of the general public school population in 1990 to 51% in 2012.

It’s not just a question of percentages. 2006 , the most recent year with data on public school racial integration, shows that students of various races don’t mix as well as they presumably would. Only 38% of white students had attended a school where the majority weren’t white. A little under that same percentage of black and Hispanic students had not attended schools where at least 75% of the student population shared their race or ethnicity.

Latinos have seen the growth in segregation in the western part of the United States, with 29% of students attending schools with majority minority populations in 1991, and 45% of students doing the same in 2011. The Northeast has seen a much less significant decrease, with 47% in 1991 and 44% in 2011.

Segregation in the South has increased in the decades following Brown, with up to 34% of black students in the South in 2011 attending majority minority schools.

The most segregated schools in the nation, for black students? The Northeast, with 51% of black students in 2011 attending highly segregated schools, a percentage actually higher than two decades prior.


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