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School district segregation and the racial inertia of parental choices since 1970

A PSC Brown Bag Seminar

Peter Rich (Cornell University, Policy Analysis and Management Cornell Population Center, Center for the Study of Inequality and Department of Sociology)

Monday, 12/2/2019, 12:00pm.   ARCHIVED EVENT

Location: 1430 ISR Thompson

Since the 1970s, residential segregation between school districts has accounted for two thirds of all school segregation in the U.S., but it is unclear how much families prioritize racial characteristics of school districts when they choose where to live. I analyze the relative importance neighborhood and school district characteristics on residential selection for households from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics between 1970 and 2015 using a discrete choice analysis. A post-estimation counterfactual simulation reveals the partial effects of micro sorting behaviors on macro segregation. I find that racial avoidance has played an increasingly prominent, but always secondary, role in segregation between districts since 1970, with economic and housing characteristics adding little explanatory power. More than half of district segregation is explained by tendencies to stay or move to nearby neighborhoods without crossing district lines. District recirculation reinforces the inertia of historic racial exclusion at a large, socially meaningful spatial scale.


Peter Rich is a sociologist at Cornell University studying the intersection of structural inequality, individual choice, and public policy in the United States. His work primarily examines how micro sorting processes affect policies intending to expand opportunity to under-served populations. Peter's recent projects analyze spatial inequality between school districts, the effect of charter school expansion on racial segregation, trends in parental residential sorting during and after the era of school desegregation, and the contextual origins of racial gaps in educational outcomes.

PSC Brown Bag seminars highlight recent research in population studies and serve as a focal point for building our research community. PSC Brown Bag Archive.

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