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California The Most Segregated State for Latino Students

Date Published: May 14, 2014
State Has Little to Celebrate 60 Years After Brown v Board of Education.
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To hear CRP Co-director Gary Orfield discuss this research 
on KPCC Southern California Public Radio, click here.

LOS ANGELES--Marking the 60th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v Board of Education, the UCLA’s Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles assessed California's progress in addressing school segregation, and found that California students are more racially segregated than ever.  In their new study, Segregating California’s Future: Inequality and its Alternative 60 Years after Brown v. Board of Education, the report authors conclude that California is the third worst state when it comes to school segregation for African Americans, behind New York and Illinois.  California is, however, the state in which Latino students are most segregated.

The Brown decision challenged the legitimacy of the entire "separate but equal" educational system of the South, and helped accelerate the march toward racial and social equality across the United States, but Brown impacted California very little. According to the report, various subsequent state court decisions resulted in California having no school integration policy, which allowed segregation to grown substantially in the past two decades.

After analyzing demographic data from California's more than 10,000 schools, the authors conclude that California’s school enrollment has grown far more diverse since Brown.  But demographic shifts that could have led to more diverse and integrated schools have, instead, resulted in the educational isolation of Latino and African-American students, in particular.  

The report also finds that the poverty of California's children has increased markedly in the last generation, particularly for Latino and African-American students.  Blacks and Latinos attend the same disadvantaged schools together, resulting in "double segregation" or, in some cases, "triple segregation" by race, income and language.  

There is also a growing opportunity gap for Latino and African-American students compared to white and Asian students, since segregation by race and poverty is shown to negatively impact achievement for students of color.

Among the key findings of the research are:

  • California has had an extremely dramatic increase in the segregation of Latinos, who on average attended schools that were 54 percent white in 1970, but now attend schools that are 84 percent nonwhite.
  • In 1993, black and Latino students were in schools with 52% and 58% poor children, respectively, and no racial/ethnic group attended schools of overwhelming poverty, on average; by 2012, blacks, on average, attended a school that was two-thirds poor children and Latinos a school more than 70% poor.
  • Black and Latino students attend schools that on average have more than two-thirds poor students, while whites and Asians typically attend schools with a majority of middle-class students.
  • The typical black student in California today attends a school with more than 2.5 times as many Latinos as blacks, thus making them a minority within a school dominated by another disadvantaged group.
  • Latino and African-African-American students are isolated in schools with lower graduation rates, less availability of college preparatory courses, the overuse of suspensions and the number of experienced teachers.  By contrast, almost half of Asian American students and about 40% of white students attend schools that rank in the top 20% of Academic Performance Index test scores.
  • The most segregated of the state’s twenty largest school districts are Los Angeles Unified, Santa Ana Unified, San Bernardino Unified and Fontana Unified (near San Bernardino).   School districts that are among the most integrated and diverse are in the Sacramento area and Clovis, in the Fresno area.
  • The authors point to these less segregated school districts in California, and stress their value to policymakers seeking models for other communities.  The report details a half-century of desegregation research showing the major costs of segregation and the variety of benefits of schools that are attended by all races. 


"The playing field in California is profoundly uneven," said co-author Gary Orfield.  "How can a student who grows up in a family with fewer resources, in a neighborhood that has fewer educational activities, attends a less demanding school with fewer teachers and students who are well-prepared, and a more limited curriculum have a fair chance to compete with students who face none of these inequalities?"  

 Co-author Jongyeon Ee noted that “the triple segregation, by ethnicity, poverty, and language that California Latino students face creates very severe obstacles to equal opportunity, and the situation has deteriorated for the past sixty years.”

The report urges education policymakers and leaders to closely examine the findings of this report that highlight the needs and opportunities under the new Local Control Funding Formula to address the profound inequalities that exist in California schools, so that all children have the opportunity to receive a high-quality education no matter the color of their skin nor where they live.

The report and a list showing segregation by district for all districts in the state are available at

About the Civil Rights Project at UCLA

Founded in 1996 by former Harvard professors Gary Orfield and Christopher Edley, Jr., The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles is now co-directed by Orfield and Patricia Gándara, professors at UCLA. Its mission is to create a new generation of research in social science and law on the critical issues of civil rights and equal opportunity for racial and ethnic groups in the United States. It has monitored the success of American schools in equalizing opportunity and has been the authoritative source of segregation statistics. CRP has commissioned more than 400 studies, published more than 15 books and issued numerous reports from authors at universities and research centers across the country. The U.S. Supreme Court, in its 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger decision upholding affirmative action, and in Justice Breyer’s dissent (joined by three other Justices) to its 2007 Parents Involved decision, cited the Civil Rights Project’s research.

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