Federal Oversight, Local Control, and the Specter of "Resegregation" in Southern Schools
Analyzing data for the 100 largest school districts in the South and Border states, we ask whether there is evidence of "resegregation" of school districts and whether levels of segregation can be linked to judicial decisions. We distinguish segregation measures indicating the extent of racial isolation from those indicating the degree of racial imbalance across schools. For the period 1994 to 2004 the trend in only one measure of racial isolation is consistent with the hypothesis that districts in these regions are resegregating. Yet the increase in this measure appears to be driven by the general increase in the nonwhite percentage in the student population rather than policy-determined increases in racial imbalance. Racial imbalance itself shows no trend over this period. Racial imbalance is nevertheless associated with judicial declarations of unitary status, suggesting that segregation in schools might have declined had it not been for the actions of federal courts. This estimated relationship is subject to a lag, which is in keeping with the tendency for courts to grant unitary status only if districts agree to limit their own freedom to reassign students.