Desegregation and Black Dropout Rates

Jonathan Guryan

NBER Working Paper No. 8345
Issued in June 2001
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

In 1954 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that separate schools for black and white children were 'inherently unequal.' This paper studies whether the desegregation plans of the next 30 years in fact benefited the black students for whom the plans were designed. Analysis of data from the 1970 and 1980 censuses suggests that desegregation plans of the 1970's reduced the high school dropout rates of blacks by one to three percentage points during this decade. Desegregation plans can account for about half of the decline in dropout rates of blacks between 1970 and 1980. A similar analysis suggests that desegregation plans had no effect on the dropout rates of whites. The results are robust to controls for time-varying region and family income effects, as well as to tests for selective migration, though mean reversion may account for some portion of the larger estimated effects. Further investigation of conditions in segregated schools in 1970 suggests that peer effects explain at least some of the decline in the dropout rates of blacks due to desegregation plans.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w8345

Published: Guryan, Jonathan. "Desegregation And Black Dropout Rates," American Economic Review, 2004, v94(4,Sep), 919-943. citation courtesy of

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