REPORT: American Students Are Still Segregated by Income, Race

By Kenrya Rankin Aug 24, 2016

A new report from education nonprofit EdBuild exposes the nation’s most segregating school borders, making clear that—even in 2016—class and race have a massive impact on how American children are educated.

Fully half of American children live in high-poverty school districts—where more than 75 percent of students quality for free or reduced-price lunch—which leaves them more vulnerable to health crises, violence and subpar facilities. Frequently, these impoverished districts border affluent areas where students are bolstered by the funding that comes from higher property taxes. For “Fault Lines: America’s Most Segregating School District Borders,” researchers analyzed 33,500 individual school district boundaries to see just how economically segregated districts are.

From the report:

Socioeconomic segregation is rising in America’s schools, in part because of the structure of education funding. The over reliance on locally raised property taxes to fund public schools gives wealthier communities the permission to keep their resources away from the neediest schools. This creates a system of school district borders that trap low-income children in high concentrations of poverty, while more privileged peers live in better-resourced communities, often right next door.

The study uses household income as its segregating factor, but the authors note that money goes hand in hand with race. From NPR:

From this comparison Sibilia’s team compiled a list of the 50 most segregating school boundaries in the nation—in short, the district borders with the largest difference in child poverty rates from one side to the other. In this case, “segregating” is being used to talk specifically about class, not race, though the two often overlap, especially in America’s large urban school systems.

The average school district boundary separates areas with just seven percentage points between them when it comes to student-age poverty rates. But among the 50 most segregated neighboring districts, that difference ranges from 34 to 42 percentage points. The border that separates the most economically disparate districts is the one between Detroit and Grosse Pointe, where the poverty rate are 49 percent and 7 percent, respectively. The 50 most segregating borders are in 14 states. Nine of them are in Ohio, making it the state with the most economically divided districts.

The following are the top five most segregating borders; the students in each of the high-poverty districts are majority Black.

  1. Border Between Detroit City School District (49% Poverty) and Grosse Point Public Schools (7% Poverty)
  2. Border Between Birmingham City School District (49% Poverty) and Vestavia Hills City School District (6% Poverty)
  3. Border Between Birmingham City School District (49% Poverty) and Mountain Brook City School District (7% Poverty)
  4. Border Between Clairton City School District (48% Poverty) and West Jefferson Hills School District (7% Poverty)
  5. Border Between Dayton City School District (47% Poverty) and Beavercreek City School District (7% Poverty)


Read the full report here.