Changing School Settings as a Result of Desegregation: Evidence from Randomized Trials

How do desegregation policies and the resulting changes in school settings affect students’ college enrollment, college persistence, and outcomes after college?

The 1954 Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education decision emphasized the importance of desegregated school settings to remedy racial inequality by providing students of color the opportunity to attend schools with greater resources, positive peer effects, and higher expectations. However, it is difficult to measure the effects of these policies due to the non-random timing of court rulings and a lack of long-term data on youth outcomes. Bergman will examine data from a court-ordered desegregation program that used a randomized lottery to determine which students would have the opportunity to transfer to higher-income districts. The investigator will link the program’s application data on 1700 students who applied to the transfer program starting in 1994 to National Student Clearinghouse data on college attended, length of enrollment, and degree obtained. Because school quality and school segregation are associated with higher crime rates, Bergman will also collect students’ criminal activity using ten years of data on participants’ arrests. He will assess whether effects differ by race, gender, and the receiving districts’ demographic compositions. This study will overcome the limitations of other studies on the effects of desegregation by capitalizing on a randomized lottery design and linking the data to longer-term outcomes.

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