School Segregation Still Common 68 Years After Brown v. Board: Report

Nearly seven decades after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to segregate schools by race in Brown v. Board of Education, racial and economic segregation remains "commonplace" in schools across the country, according to a new report released on Tuesday by The Century Foundation (TCF).

America's school-aged population has grown more diverse since the 1950s, but "this diversity still doesn't always translate into integration," according to the report from the New York City-based progressive independent think tank. Published 68 years to the day after the Supreme Court's 1954 decision, the report said TCF's findings provide a "clear and alarming picture" of persisting segregation throughout the U.S.

In 1954, the Court ruled in a unanimous 9–0 decision that U.S. state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, even if the segregated schools were otherwise equal in quality.

While schools were "harshly segregated" in the 1950s, the report said recent public school data showed about one out of every six students were enrolled in schools in which about nine in 10 of their fellow students were the same race. The data TCF referenced for those statistics was from before the coronavirus pandemic, during the 2018-2019 school year.

School segregation decades after Brown v. Board
A new report released on the 68th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision said the separation of children by race in U.S. schools remains “commonplace.” Here, the Monroe School historic site of Brown v. Board of Education is photographed in Topeka, Kansas, on March 5, 2014. Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images

"Today marks 68 yrs since #BrownvBoard," TCF senior fellow Halley Potter said in a Tuesday morning tweet. "America's increasing diversity hasn't fully translated into more integrated schools: As of 2018–19, one in six public school students attended schools where over 90% of their peers had their same racial background."

On average, public and private schools in the U.S. have a "21-point difference between the percentage of White students at the average White student's school and the percentage of White students at the average non-White student's school," the report said.

The separation of Black and white students is "especially high in metro areas," where there are similarly "high levels of economic segregation." The "most extreme" examples of school segregation are in the northeastern U.S., the report said. Milwaukee-Waukesha in Wisconsin topped the TCF's list of metro areas with the most Black-white school segregation, followed by Newark, New Jersey, and Illinois' Chicago metro area. Philadelphia was at the top of the list for Hispanic-white segregation in schools. In California, Napa had the country's most Asian-white school segregation, while American Indian-white segregation was highest further south in El Centro.

The report said persisting segregation is partly attributable to population shifts and trends in schooling. It identified the separation between public school districts as "the biggest factor" in racial segregation. TCF described this factor as "particularly problematic" since "solutions to the problem of interdistrict segregation face more bureaucratic and geographic challenges than solving for other types of school segregation." Meanwhile, it said separation within individual school districts serves as the top variable in economic segregation.

Along with its report, TCF unveiled a dashboard in collaboration with The Segregation Index that displays segregation data across the U.S. The dashboard allows users to view racial and economic school segregation data for each of the 403 metro areas in the U.S.

"These statistics show that both racial and economic segregation remain formidable challenges," the report said.

Newsweek reached out to the National Coalition on School Diversity for comment.