Racial Segregation in Multiethnic Schools: Adding Immigrants to the Analysis

Ellen, I.G., O'Regan, K., Schwartz, A.E. & Stiefel, L.
In William Tate, Ed., Research on Schools, Neighborhoods and Communities: Toward Civic Responsibility. Rowman and Littlefield Publishing. 2012, pp. 67-82.

Racial segregation in America's schools remains persistently and disturbingly high, despite decades of institutional and policy changes. This paper considers one recent change common to many urban school districts - immigration - and examines whether and how the presence of a large number of immigrant students affects racial segregation. Exploiting a student-level data set including all elementary and middle school students in New York City's public schools, sixteen percent of whom are immigrants, we conduct a series of descriptive and exploratory analysis of possible avenues of influence. While it is unclear ex ante, both theoretically and compositionally, whether the presence of immigrants should increase or decrease inter-racial interaction, our results point to a decrease. Racial stratification of foreign-born students is generally higher than that of their native-born counterparts, and this is not solely attributable to income or language-skill differences. And while this heightened segregation decreases with time in the school system, the foreign-born/native-born differential is never eliminated. Importantly, we do find that there are very large differences within the immigrant population. Thus, the effect of immigrants on patterns of racial interaction in any district will depend crucially not only on the race of the immigrants, but also on their particular country of origin.