60 Years After Segregation Was Ruled Unconstitutional, Schools Increasingly Racially Divided


In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the “separate but equal” schools unconstitutional in Brown v. Board, but a UCLA study concludes that segregation still thrives nationwide.

According to the UCLA Civil Rights Group, which conducted a similar study two years ago, minority students and white students attend demographically distinct institutions. On average, white students attend schools that are 72.5 percent white, Latino students attend schools that are 56.8 percent Latino, and black students attend schools that are 48.8 percent black. And minority students make up the vast majority of metropolitan public schools, whereas their white counterparts attend suburban institutions. In the suburbs of large, medium, and small cities, white students make up 50 percent, 60.3 percent, and 61.7 percent of public school populations, respectively.

Geographically, the highest rates of segregation occur in the West and South. Between 1991 and 2011, for instance, the percent of black students attending “racially isolated minority schools” in the South increased by more than 8 percent. The percent of black students enrolled in similarly segregated schools in the West rose by roughly 8 percent as well. In the same two decades, the percentage of Latino students in 90-100 percent minority schools jumped 16.2 percent in the West.

To date, California has the most segregated school system in the country.

Several factors have contributed to this growing trend. One author behind the UCLA report, Gary Orfield, points to education policies that focus less on race relations and more on school “accountability measures.” Sherrilyn Ifill, President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, also connects school segregation to housing discrimination, which keeps minorities out of majority-white areas. The UCLA report also explains that a lack of federal policy aimed at Latino desegregation created conditions for segregation to occur between white and Latino students.

There are a number of adverse consequences of school segregation, including higher dropout rates and a reduced likelihood of attending college. Violent crime rates are also higher in segregated schools.