Residential segregation and school segregation: a comparative case study of educational choice programs
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Research has thoroughly documented reciprocal patterns of residential and school segregation. School segregation remains at high levels around the country, despite explicit desegregation policies. Due to the embedded nature of residential and school segregation, policies characterized by limited intervention have fallen short at alleviating either. This study departs from previous research as it looks closely into four metropolitan area case studies, analyzing the historical path that led each metropolitan area to their current school choice program, the intent behind each program, and the reasons programs may differ. My research analyzes whether school choice programs have different impacts on school segregation in the context of historical desegregation and surrounding residential segregation, in order to identify whether school choice programs can help to alleviate school segregation. This study finds that metropolitan area school segregation tends to be higher than the surrounding metropolitan residential segregation. Cities with historical desegregation battles showed resistance to implementing desegregation policies in favor of more open voluntary programs. Voluntary school choice programs rarely alleviated and often exacerbated segregation in schools. White students disproportionately attended schools outside of the public school system, while minority students remained in traditional public or charter schools. School choice programs have been limited in their impact due to restrictions on race-based admissions and inter-district programs, as well as individual choices to avoid the public school system. Thus, even in metropolitan areas with explicit desegregation goals, school segregation remains high and relatively unchecked.