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Charts Show That Segregation In US Schools Is Still A Major Problem

UCLA's Civil Rights Project released a lengthy report earlier this month showing increasing segregation in U.S. public schools 60 years after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education first led to desegregation.

The report, titled "Brown at 60: Great Progress, a Long Retreat and an Uncertain Future" looks only at U.S. public schools and defines segregation as separation among students by race or ethnicity.

The report includes some eye-opening charts, like the one below focusing on the South — the region arguably most impacted by the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. That year, no black students in the South attended school with white students. Even a decade later, only one in 50 black students had been integrated, with 2.3% attending majority white schools. But with the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, greater federal enforcement of desegregation led to more rapid integration.

segregation in U.S. schools
segregation in U.S. schools

UCLA Civil Rights Project

Desegregation peaked in the South in 1988 when 43.5% of black students attended majority white schools. But that percentage began a steady decline in the 1990s, down to just 23.2% by 2011. "The reality is that segregation has been increasing since 1990, for almost a quarter century, and that today black students are substantially more segregated than they were in 1970," the UCLA Civil Rights Project report said. "The direction of change, however, suggests that things will continue to worsen."

This next chart reveals that the percentage of black students in extremely segregated schools — where 90-100% of students are minorities — has increased in every region of the U.S. since the early 1990s.

segregation in U.S. schools
segregation in U.S. schools

UCLA Civil Rights Project

Black students started becoming more segregated in the early 1990s, the same period when a conservative Supreme Court began ending desegregation plans in many of the country's school districts, according to the UCLA Civil Rights Project report.

Despite the increase in segregation, the Northeast is the only region where more black students are extremely segregated now than in 1968. The "border" region in the above chart includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

This next chart takes into account the Latino minority group, whose share of total school enrollment has increased substantially since the 1960s, while the share of white enrollment has decreased substantially. It reveals that, like black students, the percentage of Latino students in extremely segregated schools has largely increased in recent decades.

school segregation
school segregation

UCLA Civil Rights Project

The next chart shows the nationwide racial composition of schools for the average student of each race.

segregation in schools
segregation in schools

UCLA Civil Rights Project

White students are the most isolated by race, followed by Latino students and black students. "[I]n a classroom of 30 students, the classmates of the typical white student would include 22 whites, 2 blacks, 4 Latinos, one Asian and one 'Other,'" the report states. "On the other hand, the typical black or Latino student would have 8 white classmates and at least 20 black and/or Latino classmates."

For perspective, the next chart displays the percentage of enrollment among each racial group throughout the country. By combining the numbers from these last two charts, we can see more about the extent of segregation in U.S. schools.

Although white students comprise 51.5% of nationwide public school enrollment, on average they attend schools where 72.5% of students are also white. Whereas black students comprise 15.4% of total enrollment, on average they attend schools where 48.8% of students are also black and only 27.6% are white. Latino students make up 24.3% of total enrollment, but on average they attend schools where 56.8% of students are also Latino and only 25.1% are white.

segregation in schools, school enrollment
segregation in schools, school enrollment

UCLA Civil Rights Project

These charts show clearly that segregation in public schools has increased in recent decades. But when comparing today's public schools to the past, it is important to keep in mind that Latino public school enrollment has risen from only 2 million in 1968 to 11.9 million in 2011, according to the report. Meanwhile, white enrollment has declined from 34.7 million in 1968 to 25.1 million in 2011.

"Given the vast changes in U.S. school enrollment, even if there were a perfectly even distribution of students from all racial groups, there would still be a decline in contact by students of other races with whites, because the share of the total who are white has declined substantially," the report said. "There would also be a very substantial increase in contact with Latinos, because their share of the total has increased."

Click here to read the full report from the UCLA Civil Rights Project >>

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