The New York Times has an op-ed claiming (among other things) that school segregation is on the rise. As evidence, the authors point out that black children are increasingly likely to attend schools that are either majority or overwhelmingly (more than 90 percent) nonwhite.
There’s a huge problem with such statistics, though, that I highlighted in a recent print piece: The Hispanic and Asian populations have risen dramatically in the past several decades. Indeed, public-school students nationwide no longer have a white majority. Of course black students’ schools have a rising share of minorities in them; everyone’s schools do.
If you measure segregation in a way that accounts for this, instead of just measuring black students’ exposure to white students, you find that there’s no increase. Don’t take my word for it, though. Here’s the money quote from a paper by Stanford education researchers Sean F. Reardon and Ann Owens:
It seems fair to say that the last 25 years have been characterized by largely stable patterns of sorting of students among schools [the type of segregation that creates “unevenness” among schools in terms of racial demographics], while the racial/ethnic composition of the student population has changed substantially, a pair of trends that yields declining black-white exposure measures but no significant change in unevenness measures of segregation.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean that this country’s racial problems are over or that there’s nothing we can do to spur further integration. I suggest several reforms we might pursue in my longer piece, in fact. But we’re not going in reverse.