Long-term effects of court-order dissociation

Many U.S. school districts are currently weighing policies to promote racial solidarity in public schools. This column outlines research by evaluating the short- and long-term effects of school exclusion in the lives of majority and minority students. New research examining the impact of court-ordered segregation plans implemented in hundreds of U.S. school districts since 1960 shows that early exposure to isolated schools has resulted in better academic and economic results for black children in the southern United States, but a comparative integration initiative for black children. Showed little advantage from.

Many U.S. school districts demonstrate high levels of racial segregation within their schools, inducing policy proposals aimed at promoting equal racial representation of students in the classroom. Although these policies often face legal challenges and substantial pushback from affected parents, the extent to which students themselves benefit from improved school integration remains a matter of debate. Although some studies question the role of school resources in shaping student outcomes (Hanushek 1986), other studies point to school input inequality as an important driver of racial inequality in adults (Card & Kruger 1992, Chetty et al. 2014; Elango et al. 2016). Card et al. 2018) and suggest that efforts to reduce these disparities, especially through consolidation, could increase economic dynamism (BYC 2019). At the same time, responses to such policies by non-minority students and parents seeking to avoid integrated classrooms may contribute to isolation in U.S. cities and hinder the effectiveness of relevant policies (Shertzer and Walsh 2016).

Although a large literary school examines the statistical relationship between the level of segregation and student outcomes, these methods are unable to determine whether associations represent functional or greater influence, such as school resources, which differentiate schools with high vs. low level segregation. Several research papers have estimated the impact of consolidation by focusing on court orders to exclude schools that are not tied to the school resource level. Follow the landmark Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education Ruling in 1954, most large school districts in the United States were placed under an order that made it mandatory for them to reduce the level of racial segregation in their schools. Gurian (2004) showed in the U.S. Census data that these orders reduced the number of blacks in high school, and Johnson (2011) used a smaller dataset to suggest that these effects extended to adults (see Johnson 2019 for these results in book form), school. With a detailed discussion of what reforms can improve student outcomes).

Our research adds evidence to this debate by providing the most comprehensive national assessment to date on the long-term effects of court-directed alienation on adult socioeconomic outcomes. We use large-scale and limited data on the long-term educational and economic outcomes of children in conjunction with the 2000 Census and the 2001-2015 American Community Survey and the county-level time-collected datasets of Social Security records. Our empirical approach to dissociation orders complements other recent work, such as Bailey et al. (2021), who used similar data and found a significant long-term positive effect on human capital and economic self-sufficiency associated with the rollout of the Head Start program. To isolate causal exposure prior to school graduation on adult outcomes, we compare children who were born in the same birth group in the same birth state, but in different birth counts, so that they came in contact with the separation order at different ages. We then compare these effects to those children who faced the order at the age of 17, for whom we would not expect any change in results as they had already finished their secondary schooling.

We report our main results in Figure 1, using indicator variables that give an overview of the improvement of human capital (e.g. schooling) and economic self-sufficiency (issues related to employment and earnings). The results are shown separately for blacks and whites and for people born in the South and beyond.

Figure 1 Long-term effects of school exclusion on human capital (HC) and economic self-sufficiency (ESS)

Figures 1a and 1b show that among South-African Americans, as indicated by the red triangle, previously isolated exposure had a large positive effect on human capital and economic self-sufficiency. Compared to exposure at the age of 17, the human capital index, born five years before the disintegration order, is associated with an increase of 0.4 standard deviation, and an increase of 0.5 standard deviation in the economic self-sufficiency index. The fact that the effects begin in stages before the age of five probably reflects court orders that take at least five years to become fully effective. Significantly, we do not identify any additional declines or improvements in results for African Americans who were over the age of 17 when they came in contact with the order, which is reassuring because people in this range do not have differential exposure to the order because they already had a bachelor’s degree. Because the potential for interpreting index variables varies, we also report results for individual variables that lead to indexed results. Compared to people exposed to segregation at the age of 17, African Americans born five years before such a court order had a 15 percentage point chance of graduating from high school, a 10 percent chance of getting a job, and a 30% increase in earnings. However, the effects of college graduation and imprisonment are negligible. Additional analyzes indicate that the effects we uncover are more similar in men and women but are even greater in counties with higher pre-court-order levels of racial inequality.

The same statistics indicate that there was no significant (either significant or statistical) effect for white Southerners in exposure to the earlier secession order. However, Figures 1c and 1d present the results for the northern counties: in stark contrast to the southern patterns, we find no correlation between the previous exposure and improvement of the adult results dissociation order for Black Northern. Although our data is limited in its ability to evaluate the processes that drive this outcome, an increase in baseline segmentation rates in the South is a possible explanation. Additionally, families in the North may have responded to orders that formulated de-facto isolation rather than D-Jur level (as in the South), for example by relocating to suburban school districts or enrolling private schools.

Overall, although our results suggest that segregation efforts in the South were significantly stronger in improving black results, the distinct absence of effects outside the South strongly suggests that there are limitations to the effectiveness of integration initiatives in specific contexts. This raises the question of whether ongoing or future interventions would be effective without such transformative changes in the local education system or where effective ways to avoid inclusive schools for white families are available.


Bailey, M. S. Sun and B. Timpe (2021), “The Long-Term Impact of Head Start on Human Capital and Labor Market Outcomes”, VoxEU.org, 06 June.

Biasi, B (2019), “School Finance Equality Increases Intergenerational Mobility”, VoxEU.org, 24 April.

Card, D., C. Dominisoru and L. Taylor (2018), “Invest in public education to increase intergenerational mobility”, VoxEU.org, 06 October.

Card, D & A Kruger (1992), “School Quality and Black-and-White Relative Income: A Direct Assessment”, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 107 (1): 151-200.

Chetty, R, N Hendren, P Kline and E Saez (2014), “Where is the land of opportunity? Intergenerational mobility in the United States “, VoxEU.org, 04 February.

Elango, S, JL Garcia, J Heckman and A Hojman (2016), “Early Childhood Education and Social Mobility”, VoxEU.org, 12 January.

Gurian, J (2004), “Desegregation and Black Dropout Rate”, American Economic Review94 (4): 919–943.

Hanushek, E (1986), “The Economics of Schooling: Production and Skills in Public Schools”, Journal of Economic Literature 24 (3): 1141–1177.

Johnson, RC (2011), “Long-term Impact of School Desegregation and School Quality”, NBER Working Paper 16664.

Johnson, RC (2019), Dream Child: Why School Integration Works, Basic books.

Shertzer, A and R Walsh (2016), “Why U.S. Cities Are Segregated by Race: New Evidence of the Role of the White Flight”, VoxEU.org, 19 May.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.