School desegregation and educational attainment for blacks

Type Journal Article - Journal of Human resources
Title School desegregation and educational attainment for blacks
Volume 45
Issue 4
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2010
Page numbers 893-914
The desegregation of Southern schools following the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown decision was perhaps
the most important innovation in U.S. education policy in the 20th century. This paper assesses the
effects of desegregation on its intended beneficiaries, black students. In Louisiana, substantial reductions
in segregation between 1965 and 1970 were accompanied by large increases in per-pupil funding.
This additional funding was used to "level up" school spending in integrated schools to the level previously
experienced only in the white schools. The effects of desegregation on the educational experiences
of black students differed substantially depending on the black share of enrollment in the district. For
historical reasons, blacks in districts with higher black enrollment shares experienced larger increases
in funding, compared to their counterparts in lower black enrollment share districts. On the other hand,
blacks in high black enrollment share districts saw smaller increases in exposure to whites (who were
higher-income). Blacks in high black enrollment share districts experienced larger improvements in
educational attainment, suggesting that the increase in funding associated with desegregation was more
important than the increased exposure to whites. A simple cost-benefit calculation suggests that the
additional school spending was more than offset by higher earnings due to increased educational attainment.
Using a different source of variation and methodology, the results of this paper are consistent with
earlier work suggesting that desegregation improved educational attainment for blacks and sheds new
light on the potential mechanism behind this improvement in Louisiana: increased funding for blacks'

Related studies