Racial makeup of schools 65 years after Brown

As of 2016, White students no longer constitute a majority of students enrolled in U.S. public schools, according to a report published by The Civil Rights Project at UCLA and the Center for Education and Civil Rights at Penn State to mark the 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics show that White students in 2016 made up 48.4% of the U.S. student population, Latinx students are the next largest group at 26.3%, followed by Black students at 15.2%, Asian students at 5.5%, and American Indian students at 1%.

Much of the shift is driven by growth in the Latinx population, which constituted only 5.1% of students in 1970. The percentage of Asian students (0.5% of students in 1970) and American Indian students (0.4% in 1970) grew by smaller margins, while the percentage of Black students has remained fairly steady. As other groups grew or held steady, the percentage of White students has declined from 79.1% in 1970.

Student populations vary considerably by region. The full report includes breakdowns by state, region, and type of community.

The report also considers the degree of segregation students of different races experience. Since 1988, when Black students experienced the highest levels of desegregation, the percentage of schools with 90-100% non-White student populations has grown from 5.7% to 18.2%. At the same time, the number of schools where 90-100% of students were White declined from 38.9% to 16%. As of 2016, the most intensely segregated schools were more likely to be predominately non-White, rather than predominately White, as they had been in previous years.

The authors also looked at how likely the typical student of each race was to encounter students of a different race in their schools. The typical White student attended a school that was 69.3% White, the typical Black student attended a 47.1% Black school, and the typical Latinx student attended a 55.1% Latinx school. Only the typical Asian student attended a school in which their schoolmates were most likely to be of a different race; however, their schools still had the largest proportion of Asian students, at 24.1%.

Source: Frankenberg, E., Ee, J., Ayscue, J.B., & Orfield, G. (2019, May 10). Harming our common future: America’s segregated schools 65 years after Brown. Los Angeles, CA: Civil Rights Project.

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