Research Associate, Urban Institute
Dividing Lines: Racial Segregation Across Local Government Boundaries in U.S. Metropolitan Areas
We provide a descriptive analysis of the most racially unequal school district jurisdictional boundaries in the US and study the impact that redressing these dividing lines could have on residential segregation. First, we establish that segregation between jurisdictions is robustly linked with racial gaps in socioeconomic outcomes in US metropolitan areas, motivating our analysis. Next, we develop novel methods that combine national level census data and GIS data on district boundaries to generate a ranked list of the most racially unequal boundaries in the country. These methods are based on spatial regression discontinuity and counterfactual ‘merger’ exercises. Finally, we examine the endogenous response of households to district jurisdictional changes, providing reliable estimates of the ‘white flight’ effect of redressing racially inequal boundaries. We use these estimates to provide calculations of the extent to which an equity-driven reform to district jurisdictions could be undone by endogenous household responses. Our results rule out that equitable district changes would lead to massive household resorting, and that redressing dividing lines could have a large and lasting impact on equity in US public education.