Attendance Boundaries and the Segregation of Public Schools in the United States

I study the effect of school attendance boundary policy on the segregation of public schools in the United States. Attendance boundary schemes are policy choices that govern the mechanical mapping between residential and school segregation. I develop an empirical framework that summarizes these policies into a single parameter that can be interpreted as the short-term effect of assignment policy on school segregation. I implement this method using novel national data on attendance boundaries, resulting in a cross-sectional distribution of integration policy. The mean elementary school student attends a district that reduces segregation by about 10\%. However, there is ample heterogeneity: 13\% of students attend districts that are 25\% integrated, while 3\% attend districts that  exacerbate segregation by more than 10\%. Districts under active desegregation order show considerably stronger integration policy, but there exist districts that have never faced such decrees with similarly strong integration schemes. Furthermore, I find that the integrative district tends to be relatively smaller, less residentially segregated, better funded, and with smaller racial gaps in school quality. I conclude with a case study evaluating the stability of school integration policy with respect to residential sorting. Using the policy shock generated by the end of desegregation busing in Charlotte in 2002 combined with decennial census data, I estimate that a 25 percentage point increase in a school's minority assignment leads to a 3.6 percentage point increase in the minority share of residences over ten years--a significant, but modest, "white flight" effect.

Tomas Monarrez is a PhD candidate in economics at UC Berkeley. His fields of concentration are labor economics, public finance, and economics of education. His dissertation research focuses on the intersection between education policy and racial inequality in the United States.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 - 2:00pm
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