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Segregation in Neighborhoods and Schools:
Impacts on Minority Children in the Boston Region

John R. Logan
Deirdre Oakley
Jacob Stowell
Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research

University at Albany.
 September 1, 2003


This paper was prepared for presentation at the Harvard Color Lines Conference, as part of the Metro Boston Equity Initiative, an initiative of The Civil Rights Project, Harvard University.


In their analysis of the sources of urban riots in the mid-1960ís the National Commission on Civil Disorders observed that the country was dividing into two nations, increasingly separate and unequal.  Now several decades later and in a very different social and political climate, Census 2000 reminds us that divisions remain very deep.  Analyses have shown that reductions in black-white segregation have been slow and uneven.  New minorities have become much more visible since the 1960s, and while Hispanics and Asians are less segregated than are blacks from whites, their levels of segregation have been unchanged or rising since 1980. 

Separate neighborhoods also continue to be unequal.  One of the major costs of residential segregation is that minorities live in poorer neighborhoods with less resources than do whites with comparable incomes.  Analysis of the Boston metropolitan region reveals that this national pattern persists here despite a decade of widespread prosperity, and we find that disparities are experienced most strongly by children.

We look at childrenís experiences in the neighborhoods where they live (how separate? how unequal?) and the schools that they attend.  These are both important to child development, but we believe schools have a particular importance because of how they affect childrenís chances for achievement in their adult lives.  We also look very closely at differences within the metropolis between the City of Boston, other smaller cities, and suburbs.  It turns out that the exclusion of minority children from suburban neighborhoods and schools is the most significant key to racial inequality in the Boston region.

Nearly 30 years after a court ordered Bostonís city schools to desegregate (1974), school segregation continues to be a major obstacle to equal opportunity for minority children in the Boston metropolis.  The issues are national in scope, but in Boston we see especially clearly how limited are the impacts of policies that are only implemented within city boundaries.  Blacks and Hispanics are unusually concentrated in the City of Boston and a  handful of older outlying towns and cities, while residential suburbs where most whites live hardly share in the growing ethnic and racial diversity of the region.


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