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  • Oct 28 2015

The Integration Anomaly

By Ben Scafidi, Ph.D.

The Integration Anomaly: Comparing the Effects of K–12 Education Delivery Models on Segregation in Schools examines existing evidence to answer several questions. How have race and income segregation changed in public schools over time? How have school choice programs affected integration in schools—both public and private? Historically, how has government-compelled integration had an impact on schools and neighborhoods? And how can policymakers design education systems that will result in healthy race and income integration in schools?

What Will I Learn? Download Report

In this report, you will learn:

  • 1

    Neighborhoods are becoming more integrated, while public schools are becoming more segregated.

    Using an analytical tool called the dissimilarity index (DI), this report examines integration trends in neighborhoods and public schools across a broad swathe of metropolitan areas. The report illustrates that since the 1980s, neighborhoods have become more racially integrated, but public schools have become more racially segregated. At the same time, families today are twice as likely to live in an income-segregated neighborhood as they were in the 1970s, leading to more income segregation in schools.
  • 2

    Examination of existing empirical evidence shows school choice increases integration in U.S. schools.

    The report explores research on existing school choice programs and simulation studies to examine the impact of school choice programs on integration. Seven high-quality empirical studies show school choice programs have had a positive impact on integration, allowing children to move from more segregated schools to more integrated ones. One study showed no effect either way. The author also examined data from programs in New Zealand, Sweden, and Chile with mixed results.
  • 3

    Government-compelled integration measures are ineffective in the long term.

    Studies show government-forced integration initiatives do not have the best long-term results. Well-meaning desegregation orders from the 1960s and 70s had some positive effects in the short term; however, studies find desegregation efforts decreased white enrollments in central city districts by 6 percent to 12 percent. Evidence from school choice programs that empower low-income students and students of color to attend the same schools affluent, white families attend confirms Milton and Rose D. Friedman’s belief that integration by choice would be most successful. Integration by choice can be seen in other areas of American life, such as marriage and adoption.
  • 4

    School choice program design matters if policymakers want more integration in schools.

    The report notes that increased competition and more-specialized schools may positively impact integration efforts. Well-designed programs that allow for competition, customized schools, and choice for all parents may offset today’s negative trends toward racial and income segregation in schools by allowing parents to sort children among schools according to educational needs and interests, going beyond just “peer quality.” Based on the analysis of the current evidence, this report makes several design suggestions for future school choice programs.

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