May 16, 2014

Public school enrollment disparities exist 60 years after historic desegregation ruling

Sixty years ago, the Supreme Court handed down its landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, holding that racial segregation in public schools violated the Constitution. But while schools have become more integrated, in part due to broad demographic trends, white students remain significantly less likely than minorities to attend diverse schools, according to an analysis of U.S. Department of Education data by the Pew Research Center.

Student enrollment at majority-minority public schoolsIn 2010, some 15.9% of whites attended a school where minorities made up at least half of all students. By comparison, more than three-quarters of Hispanics and blacks (and six-in-ten Asians) attended these “majority-minority” schools. White students, while still a majority in the nation’s public school classrooms, have shrunk in number. From 1990 to 2010, the number of white students decreased by 2.1 million. Meanwhile, the number of black, Hispanic and Asian students in those schools has increased by 8.9 million. White students in 2012 made up 51% of public school students, down from 68% in 1990.

Fueled by these demographic trends, the share of white students enrolled in majority-minority schools has nearly doubled over the past two decades, from 8.4% in 1990 to 15.9% in 2010. The share of black, Hispanic and Asian students enrolled in majority-minority schools also increased during this time—for Hispanics, from 73% to 79%, for example.

White students are more likely than blacks or Hispanics to attend school where a vast majority of students are of the same race or ethnicity. In 2006, the most recent year for which data was published, some 62% of white students attended a school where three-quarters or more of all students were white. By comparison, about one-in-three black and Hispanic students attended a school where at least three-quarters of students were of the same race or ethnicity. (Data on Asians was not available.)

Among Latino students, segregation has grown most in the western U.S., according to a new report from the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles. In 2011, some 45% of Latinos in the West attended schools where at least nine-in-ten students were minorities, up from 29% in 1991. In the Northeast, about 44% of Latinos attended these schools in 2011, down from 47% in 1991.

Among blacks, students in the South attend less-segregated schools than those in the Northeast, though segregation in the South has increased in recent decades, according to the report. In 2011, some 34% of blacks in the South attended schools where at least nine-in-ten students were minorities. While that’s up from 26% in 1991, it’s far lower than 78% of students in 1968 that attended “highly segregated” schools. In the Northeast, some 51% of blacks attended highly segregated schools in 2011, a slight increase from twenty years earlier.

 

Topics: Education, Race and Ethnicity

  1. is a Writer/Editor at the Pew Research Center's Hispanic Trends Project.

  2. Photo of Richard Fry

    is a Senior Research Associate at the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project.

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4 Comments

  1. Elaine Coyle3 months ago

    In my city of 50,000,the ratio of black is 67% to white 33%.
    In the public schools 8000 students are black & 1000 students are white.
    Of course blacks will be in the majority in the classrooms.
    I do not know the number of white children that go to private schools.

    Reply
  2. Cynthia Curran4 months ago

    The Garden Grove in Orange County is over 50 percent Hispanic and about 28 percent Asian and about 18 to 20 percent non-Hispanic white. There are a lot of minority districts that are black/Hispanic or Hispanic/Asian.

    Reply
  3. aitana cardoso4 months ago

    interesting atrticles…especially considering the significant decline in the all students.

    Reply
  4. Doug Pearson4 months ago

    For an interesting comparison, especially considering the significant decline in the % of all students who are white, I would like to see the chart for the % attending public schools where whites make up at least half of all students. I’m guessing that all the curves will trend down; whites more steeply than any minority group.

    Reply