White Flight, Demographic Transition, and the Future of School Desegregation

by David J. Armor, Donna S. Schwarzbach

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This study offers a demographic projection method for estimating the size and duration of white flight and applies the method to school districts experiencing court-ordered mandatory desegregation. In most cases the size of the effect is both large and long-term, accounting for 30 to 60 percent of all white losses over extended periods following desegregation. The white losses are such that, in many cases, the amount of desegregation — defined as minority exposure to whites — is declining, and for some districts has fallen below the pre-desegregation level. Court-ordered desegregation, coupled with normal demographic trends, is producing increasing ethnic and racial isolation in many larger school districts. Given the strong public opposition to mandatory busing as well as the current legal situation, the prospects for metropolitan desegregation appear limited. On the other hand, voluntary methods have worked well in some cases and may offer a more viable alternative in larger cities.

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