American public schools experienced a substantial reduction of black-white segregation after the Supreme Court ordered the immediate desegregation of Mississippi schools in 1969. Past research has shown that progress slowed by the 1990s, with some arguing that segregation actually began to rebound. This study is the first to examine enrollment data for each decade between 1970 and 2010 for a comprehensive set of districts across the country and also the first to include data for 1980 for a national sample of districts. It provides definitive evidence that most desegregation occurred in the 1970s, with little subsequent change. It also addresses two questions about the desegregation process. First, how closely was it tied to court orders for a particular school district or for a neighboring district? Desegregation was greatest in response to a legal mandate, but it also extended to districts that never faced court action. Second, what was the effect of mandates on white flight? White student enrollment declined generally in these decades but more in districts that faced a mandate in the immediate past decade. White flight contributed to a modest increase in segregation between school districts, but desegregation within districts was sufficient to result in a large net decline at a metropolitan level.


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pp. 1049-1075
Launched on MUSE
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