Racial segregation in the United States | effects



A "Colored School" in South Carolina, ca.1878

Segregation in education has major social repercussions. The prejudice that many young African-Americans experience causes them undue stress which has been proven to undermine cognitive development. Eric Hanushek and his co-authors have considered racial concentrations in schools, and they find large and important effects. Black students appear to be systematically and physically hurt by larger concentrations of black students in their school. These effects extend neither to white nor to Hispanic students in the school, implying that they are related to peer interactions and not to school quality.[118] Moreover, it appears that the effect of black concentrations in schools is largest for high-achieving black students.[119]

Even African Americans from poor inner-cities who do attend universities continue to suffer academically due to the stress they suffer from having family and friends still in the poverty-stricken inner cities.[120] Education is also used as a means to perpetuate hypersegregation. Real estate agents often implicitly use school racial composition as a way of enticing white buyers into the segregated ring surrounding the inner-city[121]

The percentage of black children who now go to integrated public schools is[when?] at its lowest level since 1968.[122] The words of "American apartheid" have been used in reference to the disparity between white and black schools in America. Those who compare this inequality to apartheid frequently point to unequal funding for predominantly black schools.[123]

In Chicago, by the academic year 2002–2003, 87 percent of public-school enrollment was black or Hispanic; less than 10 percent of children in the schools were white. In Washington, D.C., 94 percent of children were black or Hispanic; less than 5 percent were white.

Jonathan Kozol expanded on this topic in his book The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America.

The "New American apartheid" refers to the allegation that US drug and criminal policies in practice target blacks on the basis of race. The radical left-wing web-magazine ZNet featured a series of 4 articles on "The New American Apartheid" in which it drew parallels between the treatment of blacks by the American justice system and apartheid:

Modern prisoners occupy the lowest rungs on the social class ladder, and they always have. The modern prison system (along with local jails) is a collection of ghettos or poorhouses reserved primarily for the unskilled, the uneducated, and the powerless. In increasing numbers this system is being reserved for racial minorities, especially blacks, which is why we are calling it the New American Apartheid. This is the same segment of American society that has experienced some of the most drastic reductions in income and they have been targeted for their involvement in drugs and the subsequent violence that extends from the lack of legitimate means of goal attainment.[124]

This article has been discussed at the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice and by several school boards attempting to address the issue of continued segregation.

In higher education, some disadvantaged groups now demand segregated academic and social enclaves, including dormitories, orientation sessions, and commencement ceremonies. This serves the purpose of making students of color more comfortable and highlighting the challenges they face on historically white-dominated campuses, although it may impair the ability of such students to interact with people outside of their specific group.[125]

Due to education being funded primarily through local and state revenue, the quality of education varies greatly depending on the geographical location of the school. In some areas, education is primarily funded through revenue from property taxes; therefore, there is a direct correlation in some areas between the price of homes and the amount of money allocated to educating the area's youth.[126] A 2010 US Census showed that 27.4% of all African-Americans lived under the poverty line, the highest percentage of any other ethnic group in the United States.[127] Therefore, in predominantly African-American areas, otherwise known as 'ghettos', the amount of money available for education is extremely low. This is referred to as "funding segregation".[126] This questionable system of educational funding can be seen as one of the primary reasons contemporary racial segregation continues to prosper. Predominantly Caucasian areas with more money funneled into primary and secondary educational institutions, allow their students the resources to succeed academically and obtain post-secondary degrees. This practice continues to ethnically, socially and economically divide America.

Alternative certificate programs were introduced in many inner-city schools and rural areas. These programs award a person a teaching license even though he/she has not completed a traditional teaching degree. This program came into effect in the 1980s throughout most states in response to the dwindling number of people seeking to earn a secondary degree in education.[128] This program has been very controversial. It is, "booming despite little more than anecdotal evidence of their success.[…] there are concerns about how they will perform as teachers, especially since they are more likely to end up in poor districts teaching students in challenging situations."[129] Alternative Certificate graduates tend to teach African-Americans and other ethnic minorities in inner-city schools and schools in impoverished small rural towns. Therefore, impoverished minorities not only have to cope with having the smallest amount of resources for their educational facilities but also with having the least trained teachers in the nation. Valorie Delp, a mother residing in an inner-city area whose child attends a school taught by teachers awarded by an alternative certificate program notes:

One teacher we know who is in this program said he had visions of coming in to "save" the kids and the school and he really believes that this idea was kind of stoked in his program. No one ever says that you may have kids who threaten to stab you, or call you unspeakable names to your face, or can't read despite being in 7th grade.[130]

Delp showcases that, while many graduates of these certificate programs have honorable intentions and are educated, intelligent people, there is a reason why teachers have traditionally had to take a significant amount of training before officially being certified as a teacher. The experience they gain through their practicum and extensive classroom experience equips them with the tools necessary to educate today's youth.

Some measures have been taken to try give less affluent families the ability to educate their children. President Ronald Reagan introduced the McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act on July 22, 1987.[131] This Act was meant to allow children the ability to succeed if their families did not have a permanent residence. Leo Stagman, a single, African-American parent, located in Berkeley, California, whose daughter had received a great deal of aid from the Act wrote on October 20, 2012 that, "During her education, she [Leo's daughter] was eligible for the free lunch program and received assistance under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Educational Act. I know my daughter's performance is hers, but I wonder where she would have been without the assistance she received under the McKinney-Vento Act. Many students at BHS owe their graduation and success to the assistance under this law."[132]

Leo then goes on to note that, "the majority of the students receiving assistance under the act are Black and Brown."[132] There have been various other Acts enacted to try and aid impoverished youth with the chance to succeed. One of these Acts includes the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). This Act was meant to increase the accountability of public schools and their teachers by creating standardized testing which would give an overview of the success of the school's ability to educate their students.[133] Schools which repeatedly performed poorly would have increased attention and assistance from the federal government.[133] One of the intended outcomes of the Act was to narrow the class and racial achievement gap in the United States by instituting common expectations for all students.[133] Test scores have shown to be improving for minority populations, however, they are improving at the same rate for Caucasian children as well. This Act therefore, has done little to close the educational gap between Caucasian and minority children.[134]

There has also been an issue with minority populations becoming educated because to a fear of being accused of "Acting White". It is a hard definition to pin down, however, this is a negative term predominantly used by African-Americans that showing interest in one's studies is a betrayal of the African-American culture as one is trying to be a part of white society rather than staying true to his/her roots. Roland G. Fryer, Jr., at Harvard University has noted that, "There is necessarily a trade-off between doing well and rejection by your peers when you come from a traditionally low-achieving group, especially when that group comes into contact with more outsiders."[135] Therefore, not only are there economic and prehistoric causes of racial educational segregation, but there are also social notions that continue to be obstacles to be overcome before minority groups can achieve success in education.

Mississippi is one of the US states where some public schools still remain highly segregated just like the 1960s when discrimination against black people was very rampant.[136] In many communities where black kids represent the majority, white children are the only ones who enroll in small private schools. The University of Mississippi, the state’s flagship academic institution enrolls unreasonably few African-American and Latino youngsters. These schools are supposed to stand for excellence in terms of education and graduation but the opposite is happening.[137] Private schools located in Jackson City including small towns are populated by large numbers of white students. Continuing school segregation exists in Mississippi, South Carolina, and other communities where whites are separated from blacks.[138]

Segregation is not limited to areas in the Deep South but places like New York as well. The state was more segregated for black students compared to any other Southern state. There is a case of double segregation because students have become isolated both by race and household income. In New York City, 19 out of 32 school districts have fewer white students.[139] The United States Supreme Court tried to deal with school segregation more than six decades ago but impoverished and colored students still do not have equal access to opportunities in education.[140] In spite of this situation, the Government Accountability office circulated a 108-page report that showed from 2000 up to 2014, the percentage of deprived black or Hispanic students in American K-12 public schools increased from nine to 16 percent.[141]


Another impact of hypersegregation can be found in the health of the residents of certain areas. Poorer inner-cities often lack the health care that is available in outside areas. That many inner-cities are so isolated from other parts of society also is a large contributor to the poor health often found in inner-city residents. The overcrowded living conditions in the inner-city caused by hypersegregation means that the spread of infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, occurs much more frequently.[142] This is known as "epidemic injustice" because racial groups confined in a certain area are affected much more often than those living outside the area.

Poor inner-city residents also must contend with other factors that negatively affect health. Research has proven that in every major American city, hypersegregated blacks are far more likely to be exposed to dangerous levels of air toxins.[143] Daily exposure to this polluted air means that African-Americans living in these areas are at greater risk of disease.


One area where hypersegregation seems to have the greatest effect is in violence experienced by residents. The number of violent crimes in the U.S. in general has fallen. The number of murders in the U.S. fell 9% from the 1980s to the 1990s.[144] Despite this number, the crime rates in the hypersegregated inner-cities of America continued to rise. As of 1993, young African-American men are eleven times more likely to be shot to death and nine times more likely to be murdered than their European American peers.[97] Poverty, high unemployment, and broken families, all factors more prevalent in hypersegregated inner-cities, all contribute significantly to the unequal levels of violence experienced by African-Americans. Research has proven that the more segregated the surrounding European American suburban ring is, the rate of violent crime in the inner-city will rise, but, likewise, crime in the outer area will drop.[144]


One study finds that an area's residential racial segregation increases metropolitan rates of black poverty and overall black-white income disparities, while decreasing rates of white poverty and inequality within the white population.[145]

Single parenthood

One study finds that African-Americans who live in segregated metro areas have a higher likelihood of single-parenthood than Blacks who live in more integrated places.[146]

Public spending

Research shows that segregation along racial lines contributes to public goods inequalities. Whites and blacks are vastly more likely to support different candidates for mayor than whites and blacks in more integrated places, which makes them less able to build consensus. The lack of consensus leads to lower levels of public spending.[147]


In April 2017, the Metropolitan Planning Council in Chicago and the Urban Institute, a think-tank located in Washington, DC, released a study estimating that racial and economic segregation is costing the United States billions of dollars every year. Statistics (1990–2010) from at least 100 urban hubs were analyzed. This report reported that segregation affecting Blacks economically was associated with higher rates of homicide.[148]

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