School Attendance Boundaries and the Segregation of Public Schools in the U.S.
Tomás E. Monarrez
- American Economic Journal: Applied Economics (Forthcoming)
School segregation is determined by residential sorting, but also by policy choices such
as the drawing of attendance boundaries and school siting. This paper develops a
new approach to understanding the importance of each of these factors by calculating
the distance-minimizing assignment of students to schools and asking whether actual
assignments differ systematically by race. Using detailed census data with attendance
boundary maps for nearly 1,600 school districts, I find that attendance boundaries
create 5 percent more integration than a distance-minimizing baseline, and school
siting plays almost no role. Residential segregation alone explains more than 100
percent of school segregation in the U.S. Some local governments act to mitigate
school segregation, although their impact is small compared to residential choice.
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