Hanushek+Kain+Rivkin 2009 JOLE 27(3).pdf - New Evidence about Brown v Board of Education The Complex Effects of School Racial Composition on Achievement

Hanushek+Kain+Rivkin 2009 JOLE 27(3).pdf - New Evidence...

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349 [ Journal of Labor Economics, 2009, vol. 27, no. 3] 2009 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 0734-306X/2009/2703-0002$10.00 New Evidence about Brown v. Board of Education : The Complex Effects of School Racial Composition on Achievement Eric A. Hanushek, Stanford University, University of Texas at Dallas, and National Bureau of Economic Research John F. Kain, University of Texas at Dallas Steven G. Rivkin, Amherst College, University of Texas at Dallas, and National Bureau of Economic Research Uncovering the effect of school racial composition is difficult because racial mixing is not accidental but instead an outcome of government and family choices. Using rich panel data on the achievement of Texas students, we disentangle racial composition effects from other aspects of school quality and from differences in abilities and family back- ground. The estimates strongly indicate that a higher percentage of black schoolmates reduces achievement for blacks, while it implies a much smaller and generally insignificant effect on whites. These re- John F. Kain fully participated in this research, but sadly he died before its publication. An early version of this article was presented at the Brookings Con- ference on Empirics of Social Interactions (January 2000). Our thanks to con- ference participants, David Armor, Phil Cook, Jonah Gelbach, Caroline Hoxby, and Jens Ludwig for helpful comments. Support for this work has been provided by the Spencer Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foun- dation, and the Packard Humanities Institute. Contact the corresponding author, Eric A. Hanushek, at [email protected]
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350 Hanushek et al. sults suggest that existing levels of segregation in Texas explain a small but meaningful portion of the racial achievement gap. I. Introduction Five decades after the landmark 1954 school desegregation case of Brown v. Board of Education , a surprising amount of uncertainty still exists about the ultimate effects of school desegregation on academic, social, and labor market outcomes for both minority and white students. 1 The ruling in Brown held that separate but equal was unconstitutional in the case of education and led to dramatic changes in schools throughout the country. This article investigates one fundamental underlying pre- sumption of that historic legal decision—that school racial composition directly affects student outcomes and thus the black-white achievement gap. Legal forces and the residential location decisions of households have combined to shape the racial composition of schools. The seminal work of Welch and Light (1987) documented both the desegregation of many school districts following Brown and subsequent Supreme Court decisions and the countervailing white exodus from many cities and towns that dampened the impact of school desegregation on interracial contact. There was considerable variation across the United States in the intensity of desegregation efforts and the extent of white flight, both of which con-
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