Education: from Desegregation to Resegregation

Tennessee School 1956 — Congress Library of archives

My generation, generation X, benefited from all the desegregation laws during the secondary education years. On our block in West Philadelphia, one friend attended West Catholic Preparatory High School, 2 friends attended Philadelphia High School For Creative and Performing Arts, one friend attended Frankford High School, one friend attended Abraham Lincoln High School (Philadelphia). I was a student at Carver Engineering and Science. At the time diversity of color was an important element of education. Looking at the public education options for my children, generation Z, that is no longer the case.

Journalists Resource, https: //…, wrote “Nearly 60 years after Brown vs. Board of Education was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. There are mounting worries on the part of many observers that, although the country is indisputably becoming more diverse at the general level, complex patterns are unfolding that are producing more racially segregated pockets across America. Still, the degree of resegregation depends on the types of neighborhoods and schools studied, as recent research literature suggests.

At the macro level, the 2013 paper “Integration or Fragmentation? Racial Diversity and the American Future,” published in the journal Demography by Cornell University’s Daniel T. Lichter, provides a comprehensive view of trends that constitute what is being termed the nation’s Third Demographic Transition. “As racial and ethnic diversity unfolds from the bottom up — beginning with children — America may be challenged as never before,” Lichter writes, noting that all future population growth will come from non-white groups. “Racial inclusion, which has been reflected in past declines in racial residential segregation and racial homophily, is hardly guaranteed. Indeed, past progress may be lost.”

A 2012 report from UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, “E Pluribus…Separation: Deepening Double Segregation for More Students,” notes that “nationwide, the typical black student is now in a school where almost two out of every three classmates (64%) are low-income, nearly double the level in schools of the typical white or Asian student (37% and 39%, respectively).” The report, by Gary Orfield, John Kucsera and Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, frames the evidence bluntly: “Fully 15% of black students, and 14% of Latino students, attend ‘apartheid schools’ across the nation, where whites make up 0 to 1% of the enrollment.

At stake are huge differences in educational outcomes and life chances for students of color. For example, a 2013 study published in American Educational Research Journal, “High School Socioeconomic Segregation and Student Attainment,” finds that peer influence is an important and underappreciated factor in motivating students to achieve. The author, Gregory J. Palardy of the University of California, Riverside, concludes that “even after controlling for an array of student background characteristics and school inputs, students who attended high-SEC [socioeconomic composition] schools were 68% more likely to enroll at a four-year college than students from low SEC-schools. Because educational attainment is associated with several important life outcomes — access to careers, income, and even health — this finding suggests that attending a low-SEC high school may have lifelong negative consequences.”

There are 2 solutions to the diversity socioeconomic gap in schools. We can

  1. Change the criteria from neighborhood zip codes for the catchment area of the schools
  2. Encourage gentrification of neighborhoods to bring in diversity of color and income

Both decisions hinge on financial literacy of the communities involved. The media keeps pushing the idea that gentrification is negative consequence for low income residents. As a benefactor of a gentrified neighborhood in West Philadelphia, I disagree. CNN (money edition), reported “ A study by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve recently concluded that poor people are no more likely to move out of a gentrifying neighborhood than from a non-gentrifying one. That doesn’t mean low income people are not pushed out of their neighborhoods. They are just not more likely to be displaced than a person of similar income in a neighborhood that’s not gentrifying.

Experts say there are may even be some benefits for the low-income residents that decide to stay in gentrifying neighborhoods.

  • New job opportunities emerge as more stores open and construction picks up.
  • Longtime homeowners benefit from rising property values.
  • There’s often a decline in crime.
  • On average, credit scores of the poor residents improve in gentrifying neighborhoods.

“It appears that when a neighborhood gentrifies, it doesn’t necessarily lead to widespread displacement,” says Lance Freeman, a professor of urban planning at Columbia University. Freeman conducted a nationwide gentrification study in 2005, which also came up with similar conclusions reached by the Philly Fed’s findings that gentrification does not lead to higher chances of low-income residents being pushed into another neighborhood.

Related: Innovative Cities: Philadelphia The Fed’s study — which focused on Philadelphia — found that people in gentrifying neighborhoods tend to move more often than those in non-gentrifying neighborhoods. But it’s not who you might think. It’s the people with high credit scores — who tend to have high incomes — that move out of the neighborhood more frequently and often to wealthier parts of the city or suburbs.”

The diversity of color and socioeconomic levels benefited generation X. Those gains in economic levels are clearly documented. As a parent, why am I forced to look to private schools that value diversity or do as the CNN article suggests, move out of my gentrified neighborhood instead of assigning students to the public school for generation Z?

Originally published at