Black Experience

School Integration Wasn’t Always Good for Black Students: Study

Black adults who attended racially balanced high schools in the mid-20th century completed significantly less schooling than those who attended either predominantly Black or predominantly White schools, a new study found.

The study — conducted by economists at Washington and Lee University, the New School and Duke University and based on data from the National Survey of Black Americans — also found that Black Americans who attended school from the 1930s through the early 1970s on average completed a half-year less of school than Black students in predominantly Black high schools, The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported.

Black students who attended racially balanced high schools earned three-quarters of a year less education than Black students at predominantly white high schools, the economists said.

“Standard wisdom has it that school desegregation paves the way to racial nirvana in the United States,” William Darity, a professor of public policy, African and African American Studies and economics at Duke University, said in a statement. “Our study suggests that the effects have been more muted than typically claimed in other studies and in the popular media. Of course, school desegregation is desirable to produce a better America, but we must be far more cautious about the benefits we ascribe to it.”

The study’s authors also collectively wrote that “Black students are perceived as more of a competitive threat to White students for preferred resources,” such as attention from teachers, placement in desirable classes, and positions of status in co-curricular activities.

The full study, “Does the Negro Need Separate Schools? A Retrospective Analysis of the Racial Composition of Schools and Black Adult Academic and Economic Success,” was published on The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences.

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