Implications of income-based school assignment policies for racial school segregation


Sean F. Reardon


John T. Yun


Michal Kurlaender

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A number of public school districts in the United States have adopted income-based integration policies—policies that use measures of family income or socioeconomic status—in determining school assignment. Some scholars and policymakers contend that such policies will also reduce racial segregation. In this article this assumption is explored by computing upper and lower bounds on the possible and probable levels of racial segregation that would result from race-neutral income-based school assignment policies. The article finds that, in general, income integration is no guarantee of even modest racial desegregation. In particular, the extent of ancillary racial integration produced by an income-integration policy will depend on the size of racial income disparities within a given district, the specifics of an income-integration policy, and the patterns of racial and socioeconomic residential segregation in a school district. Data on racial income inequality and income segregation in urban districts throughout the United States indicate that very high levels of racial segregation are possible under any practical income-integration policy. The authors conclude that, given the extent of residential racial segregation in the United States, it is unlikely that race-neutral income-integration policies will significantly reduce school racial segregation, although there is reason to believe that such policies are likely to have other beneficial effects on schooling.

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APA Citation

Reardon, S.F, Yun, J.T., & Kurlaender, M. (2006). Implications of income-based school assignment policies for racial school segregation.