New Evidence about Brown v. Board of Education: The Complex Effects of School Racial Composition on Achievement

Eric A. Hanushek, John F. Kain, Steven G. Rivkin

NBER Working Paper No. 8741
Issued in January 2002
NBER Program(s):Children, Public Economics, Economics of Education

Uncovering the effects of school racial composition on achievement is difficult, because racial mixing in the schools is not an accident but instead represents a complex mixture of government and family choices. While the goals of the integration of schools legally inspired by Brown v. Board of Education are very broad, here we focus more narrowly on how school racial composition effects scholastic achievement. Our evaluation, made possible by rich panel data on the achievement of Texas students, disentangles racial composition effects from other aspects of school quality and from differences in student abilities and family background. The results show that a higher percentage of Black schoolmates has a strong adverse effect on achievement of Blacks and, moreover, that the effects are highly concentrated in the upper half of the ability distribution. In contrast, racial composition has a noticeably smaller effect on achievement of lower ability blacks, of whites, and of Hispanics -- strongly suggesting that the results are not a simple reflection of unmeasured school quality.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w8741

Published: Hanushek, Eric A., John F. Kain and Steven G. Rivkin. "New evidence about Brown v. Board of Education: The complex effects of school racial composition on achievement." Journal of Labor Economics 27, 3 (July 2009). citation courtesy of

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