In this paper we investigate whether the school desegregation produced by court-ordered desegregation plans persists when school districts are released from court oversight. Over 200 medium-sized and large districts were released from desegregation court orders from 1991-2008. We find that racial school segregation in these districts increased gradually following release from court order, relative to the trends in segregation in districts remaining under court order. These increases are more pronounced in the South, in elementary grades, and in districts where pre-release school segregation levels were low. These results suggest that court-ordered desegregation plans are effective in reducing racial school segregation, but that their effects fade over time in the absence of continued court oversight.
These data were most recently updated in 2021. The data update involved researching districts that were still under court orders at the time of the prior data release and updating their dismissal status if necessary. Please see the documentation for more details. The original 2011 data were compiled from a variety of sources. First, we began with a dataset compiled by Logan and Oakley (Logan & Oakley, 2004) (hereafter the LO dataset), which was provided to us by John Logan. The LO dataset contains information on the case name, state, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) district identification number, year of the initial case, current status of the plan, and dismissal date when available for 1094 districts. Logan and Oakley created the dataset by compiling information from case dockets and bibliographies for desegregation court orders from the Department of Justice, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the U.S. Department of Education, as well as a set of published sources (see also Logan, Oakley, & Stowell, 2008). They then checked each case against legal databases, including Westlaw. The total case inventory includes 358 court cases, which resulted in desegregation plans involving 850 school districts as defendants, plus 207 HEW actions involving 207 school districts since 1978. (Download data)