Race Relations

Racial Diversity Has Social Economic Benefits For Children

There’s been a narrative that has been permeating through African-American cultures for the last few decades. A narrative that seems to have gained traction because of the injustices that many of us have seen through the eyes of the media – which is certainly understandable. I’ve heard family members, colleagues, and even Black entertainers subscribe to it. The suggestion is that people of color seem to do better economically and socially when segregated from the white majority. But more importantly, it suggests that those in the Civil Rights movement – who fought for and successfully influenced legislation to integrate schools – is an antiquated endeavor that is now obsolete.

Not only have recent studies debunked that theory, but it also suggests the opposite.

Recent studies have shown that racial and socioeconomic diversity in the classroom can assist in providing students with a wide range of cognitive and social benefits. And school policies around the country are beginning to catch up. Currently, there are more than 4 million students in the U.S. who are enrolled in school districts or charter schools with socioeconomic integration policies—a number that has increased by double in the last decade.

Regardless of the student’s own economic status, students in socioeconomically and racially diverse schools consistently have stronger academic outcomes than students in schools with impoverished conditions.

Here are 5 results of the outcomes.

Students within an integrated environment have higher test scores.

On the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) given to fourth-graders in math, for example, low-income students attending more affluent schools scored roughly two years of learning ahead of low-income students in high-poverty schools. Controlling carefully for students’ family background, another study found that students in mixed-income schools showed 30 percent more growth in test scores over their four years in high school than peers with similar socioeconomic backgrounds in schools with concentrated poverty.

Students in integrated schools are more likely to enroll obtain a university education. 

When comparing students with similar socioeconomic backgrounds, those students at more affluent schools are 68 percent more likely to enroll at a four-year college than their peers at high-poverty schools.

Integrated schools help to reduce racial achievement gaps. 

In fact, the racial achievement gap in K–12 education closed more rapidly during the peak years of school desegregation in the 1970s and 1980s than it has overall in the decades that followed—when many desegregation policies were dismantled. More recently, African-Amerian and Latino students had smaller achievement gaps with white students on the 2007 and 2009 NAEP when they were less likely to be stuck in high-poverty school environments. The gap in SAT scores between black and white students continues to be larger in segregated districts, and one study showed that change from complete segregation to complete integration in a district could reduce as much as one-quarter of the current SAT score disparity. A recent study from Stanford’s Center for Education Policy Analysis confirmed that school segregation is one of the most significant drivers of the racial achievement gap.

Attending a diverse school can help reduce racial bias and counter stereotypes. 

Children are at risk of developing stereotypes about racial groups if they live in and are educated in racially isolated settings. By contrast, when school settings include students from multiple racial groups, students become more comfortable with people of other races, which leads to a dramatic decrease in discriminatory attitudes and prejudices.

Meaningful relationships between individuals with different racial or ethnic backgrounds impact how people treat racial and ethnic groups. 

Studies show that emotional bonds formed through close cross-group relationships lead people to treat members of their friends’ groups as well as they treat members of their own groups. These types of relationships are most commonly formed within schools that have greater levels of racial and ethnic diversity.

Integrated schools offer children important social-emotional benefits by exposing them to peers of different cultures and backgrounds. These interactions increase the likelihood of adults creating a more civil society.

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