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From Separate and Unequal to Integrated and Equal? School Desegregation and School Finance in Louisiana

  • Sarah J. Reber
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    An important goal of the desegregation of schools following the Supreme Court's decision in Brown vs. Board of Education was to improve the quality of the schools black children attended. This paper uses a new dataset to examine the effects of desegregation on public and private enrollment and the system of school finance for Louisiana. I show that the system of school finance in Louisiana had long favored whites in high black enrollment share districts. Because of this system, whites in districts with high black enrollment shares stood to lose the most from desegregation, as the gap between white student-teacher ratios and black student-teacher ratios in those districts was higher. Given the importance of districts' black enrollment share in the system of finance and the potential impact of desegregation, I examine how changes in public and private enrollment, the local property tax base, and per-pupil revenue relate to the initial black enrollment share. The analysis suggests that the Jim-Crow system of school finance -- which had prevailed for over 60 years -- unraveled as the schools desegregated. While desegregation did induce some "white flight" and reduce the local property tax base slightly, the policies had the intended effect of reducing black-white gaps in school resources, as increased funding allowed districts to "level up" average spending in integrated schools to that previously experienced only in the white schools.

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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w13192.pdf
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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13192.

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    Date of creation: Jun 2007
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    Publication status: published as May 2011, Vol. 93, No. 2, Pages 404-415 Posted Online April 26, 2011. (doi:10.1162/REST_a_00090) © 2011 The President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13192
    Note: ED
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    1. Card, David & Krueger, Alan B, 1992. "School Quality and Black-White Relative Earnings: A Direct Assessment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(1), pages 151-200, February.
    2. Jonathan Guryan, 2004. "Desegregation and Black Dropout Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 919-943, September.
    3. Fisher, Ronald C. & Papke, Leslie E., 2000. "Local Government Responses to Education Grants," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 53(n. 1), pages 153-68, March.
    4. Clotfelter, Charles T, 1975. "The Effect of School Desegregation on Housing Prices," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 57(4), pages 446-51, November.
    5. Gordon, Nora, 2004. "Do federal grants boost school spending? Evidence from Title I," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1771-1792, August.
    6. Michael A. Boozer & Alan B. Krueger & Shari Wolkon, 1992. "Race and School Quality Since Brown vs. Board of Education," NBER Working Papers 4109, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. James R. Hines & Richard H. Thaler, 1995. "The Flypaper Effect," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 217-226, Fall.
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