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Trends in Public School Segregation in the South, 1987-2000

Authors: John T. Yun, Sean F. Reardon
Date Published: August 30, 2002

Our analyses show that segregation has remained at very high levels in most Southern states and districts, and has even increased by large amounts in many others. There does appear to be an important trend toward resegregation, but that trend is not uniform across the South. We also find that some trends are masked from one measure of segregation, but revealed by others, stressing the importance of the use of multiple measures and the examination of local situations.
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In one sense this paper will tread familiar ground since we examine the segregation trends in the South. But in addition to the trends and levels of segregation, we explore different methods for measuring segregation, different levels of aggregation, and the importance of using multiple methods to ensure an accurate picture of the dynamics driving these measures. More specifically, we intend this paper to describe broad trends in segregation in the South through multiple lenses, showing how the different levels of aggregation (region, state, and district) can influence the conclusions one makes about the school situation in the South. We also show how employing several different methods of measuring segregation over time (exposure, distribution, and the information theory index) expose trends that may otherwise have remained hidden, or below the threshold for exploration.

This paper is intended to be purely descriptive, which means that attribution of the trends we see to policies or other factors that affect school segregation cannot confidently be made. However, the importance of descriptive data lies in its ability to suggest where to look, and what to look for in order to find answers appropriate to the questions you may ask. Therefore, we do suggest possible interpretations of the data, and further analysis to pursue these trends.

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