Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Today's Ednews: Little Rock 50th - what have we learned?

Lots of reflection this week about the 50th anniversary of Little Rock. (see Juan Williams, AP, and Ed Week.)

There have always been multiple justifications for desegregation - among the most cited are 1) separate schools will always have resource inequalities, and 2) social interaction in the early years can spur social integration later on.

What were the effects of desegregation on its intended beneficiaries - black students - and if these effects were positive, what mechanisms explain these effects? Sarah Reber, a UCLA economist, wanted to know, too. In this important paper, she finds the following:

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 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...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' schools.

While Reber only addresses one of the goals of deseg - academic outcomes - this study by Amy Stuart Wells has also looked at non-cognitive outcomes of deseg. (See her report "How Desegregation Changed Us.")

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