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New Study from Assistant Professor Jenn Ayscue Looks at Effects of Neighborhood Racial Change on Racial Diversity in Schools


Increasing racial diversity in neighborhoods without widespread displacement could provide an opportunity to increase socioeconomic and racial integration in some city schools, according to a new working paper co-authored by NC State College of Education Assistant Professor Jenn Ayscue, Ph.D.

Diversifying Neighborhoods, Diversifying Schools? The Relationship Between Neighborhood Racial Change and School Segregation in New York City” examined rapidly diversifying areas of New York City, which has one of the most segregated school systems in the U.S., and the changing racial diversity in public and charter schools. 

Using data from the Census and the National Center for Educational Statistics, the study found that some schools in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens have seen a reduction in racial segregation while neighborhoods have experienced increased diversity since the early 2000s. 

“We found that in rapidly diversifying areas of New York City, school segregation has decreased, however it has not kept pace with the rate of racial change in neighborhoods,” Ayscue said. 

The study found that, from 2000 to 2016, the share of white, school-aged children in these diversifying neighborhoods increased from 11% to 29% while the combined share of school-aged Black and Latinx children decreased from 87% to 70%.

At the same time, the number of Black students enrolled in neighborhood elementary schools decreased from about 50% to about 42% while the share of white, Latinx and Asian students increased. 

The share of intensely segregated schools in these diversifying neighborhoods declined from about 91% to nearly 83% between 2001 and 2015 and the share of hypersegregated schools—or schools that enroll 99-100% students of color—decreased from about 46% to 41%. 

“Neighborhoods that have been historically segregated and are now experiencing racial change could provide an opportunity to create more integrated schools if long-standing residents of color are not displaced and excluded from their communities and if new white residents enroll their children in traditional public schools,” Ayscue said. “Proactive policies are needed from both the housing and education sectors in order to ensure that communities and schools do not displace residents of color and transition into becoming predominantly white, but instead achieve and maintain stable integration.”

Ayscue said the opportunity to create more integrated schools is crucial, as segregation has been intensifying across the country over the past three decades. 

Segregated schools, she said, are linked to unequal educational opportunities and outcomes including higher levels of teacher turnover and inexperienced teachers, fewer curricular options, inadequate resources, lower academic achievement, higher dropout rates and lower graduation rates. 

Integrated schools, however, are associated with academic, interpersonal and other long-term positive outcomes including higher academic achievement, enhanced critical thinking and communication skills, reduction in prejudice and stereotypes, increased friendships across groups, higher status and better paying jobs, better health outcomes and lower incarceration rates, she said. 

While improvements in racial segregation as seen in some diversifying areas of New York City could serve as a path to more integrated schools, Ayscue said it is important that school leaders ensure schools are truly integrated. This means, she added, that students from different racial backgrounds experience fair and equitable treatment and have equal-status interactions with others from different racial groups. 

“It’s critical that teachers and leaders create inclusive learning environments where all students have access to excellent, diverse teachers and rigorous, high quality curriculum,” she said. “Tracking and exclusionary discipline practices are examples of ways that segregation occurs within diverse schools. These are practices that educators need to address in order to create truly integrated schools.”