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Talking About Diversity

This post originally appeared on the Furman Center website.

I admire Professor Clotefelter’s  post about economic and racial segregation, just as I admire his scholarship generally. I also agree with his points about the different normative salience of economic as opposed to racial segregation, the importance of policy with respect to economic (and racial) segregation, and the growth generally (though variably) of both kinds of segregation.

In this brief post, I want to focus on how we tend to talk about racial and economic segregation at the K-12 level and how this differs markedly from how we talk about the same thing at the university and college level. At the K-12 level, most of the academic—and public—conversation about segregation speaks in terms of costs. The costs are almost always costs borne by poor students or racial minorities. A good example is in Professor Clotfelter’s post, where he writes that “economic segregation almost inevitably means unequal access to the best teachers and other resources.” There are two points in this statement: economic segregation has costs, and those costs are borne by the poorer students. The latter point is implicit but perfectly clear, as no one would doubt that it is the poorer kids who lack access to the best teachers and other resources.

And so goes the conversation generally. In most social science studies about segregation, whether racial or economic, the focus is usually on the harms of segregation, and the victims of this harm are racial minorities or poor students. There is nothing wrong with this per se, as segregation does lead to inequalities, and those inequalities (in access to good teachers, safe facilities, educational resources, etc.) tend to disadvantage poorer students and racial minorities....

To read the whole post, visit the Furman Center.