Going Backwards

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Science  18 Oct 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6156, pp. 290
DOI: 10.1126/science.342.6156.290-e

For decades, many U.S. communities have bused students to schools beyond their local neighborhood, a result of Supreme Court decisions aimed at reducing racial segregation. Recent legal challenges have led to the elimination of busing in many areas, with students' schools again determined by the neighborhoods in which they live. In Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina, busing was eliminated, but school-assignment boundaries were also redrawn, changing which neighborhoods sent students to these schools. Billings et al. took advantage of this natural experiment to study educational and social outcomes. They tracked over 40,000 students, roughly half of whom changed schools as a result of remapping. The black-white student achievement gap widened, and both black and white students scored lower on exams after assignment to new schools with larger proportions of minority students. White students were less likely to graduate high school or attend a 4-year college when assigned to schools with more minority students. Finally, crime rates among minority males increased. Allocating more resources to high-minority schools may have offset some of the negative academic outcomes at earlier ages, suggesting policy remedies to counter negative peer effects in school.


Q. J. Econ. 129, 10.1093/qje/qjt026 (2013).

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