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School Desegregation and White Flight: An Investigation of Competing Models and their Discrepant Findings

Publication Abstract

Farley, Reynolds, T. Richards, and C. Wurdock. 1980. "School Desegregation and White Flight: An Investigation of Competing Models and their Discrepant Findings." Sociology of Education, 53(3): 123-39.

Since 1968, courts have persuaded many urban school districts to desegregate. Frequently desegregation took place during a time of declining white enrollment. James Coleman argued that a component of this decline was "white flight" caused by desegregation and that governmental efforts to integrate urban schools might be self defeating. Other researchers argued that desegregation was not associated with a loss of white enrollment. One source of conflicting results has been the use of different statistical models. Three types of models are tested and their results discussed using data which are newer and more extensive than those analyzed previously. We find that within school districts there is a greater than average loss of whites during the year of integration. However, central city districts which desegregated did not lose significantly more white students over the 1967 to 1976 span than did districts which remained segregated. The most appropriate models for investigating the short-run effects of desegregation are deviations models which relate within-district change in white enrollment to within-district change in segregation and other variables. The predictive power of these models is weak; hence they should not be used for forecasting in specific districts.

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