May 16, 2024 - News

70 years after Brown ruling, Boston schools are increasingly segregated

A line chart shows that the percentage of U.S. public schools with student bodies that are more than 90% non-white has steadily increased from 7.4% in 1988 to 19.8% in 2022.
Data: Orfield and Pfleger, 2024, "The Unfinished Battle for Integration in a Multiracial America"; Chart: Axios Visuals

Racial segregation in schools across the country has increased dramatically over the last three decades, according to two new reports and an Axios review of federal data.

Why it matters: As the U.S. marks the 70th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling on Friday, American public schools are growing more separate and unequal even though the country is more racially and ethnically diverse than ever.

  • Public schools across the Boston area are increasingly segregated, decades after Brown, the 1964 Civil Rights Act and after busing in Boston ended.

State of play: Schools on average have become less white and more Latino, Asian American and multiracial. But students of color are going to schools with fewer white students and fewer resources, a UCLA Civil Rights Project report found.

  • Though 45% of all U.S. students were white, the typical Black student attended a school that was 76% nonwhite in 2021.
  • The average Latino student went to a school that was 75% nonwhite.

Zoom in: Segregation levels in Boston more than doubled between 1991 and 2022 as white families move out into the suburbs and more Black and Latino families, including first-generation immigrants, migrate into the district, according to data from The Educational Opportunity Project at Stanford University.

  • The number of schools with larger shares of nonwhite students also drops significantly from Boston's Roxbury neighborhood to neighboring Brookline, where most schools are majority-white.
  • Though Boston is a relatively well-resourced area, there are pockets of poverty and resource gaps that tend to affect Black and brown students more, due in part to de facto segregation through zoning and school policies, per a recent report from the DiversityDataKids.org project at Brandeis University.

Majority-white suburbs surrounding Boston are similarly segregated, with communities like Arlington, Newton and Braintree showing among the lowest proportions of nonwhite students compared to neighboring cities like Boston, Waltham, Chelsea, Brockton and Quincy, per the data.

  • The latter have far larger populations of Black, Latino and Asian families.

Keep reading: National desegregation trends.

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