Researchers at UC Berkeley and University of Maryland have found that students from low-income families are increasingly isolated from their middle-class and affluent peers.
After analyzing the enrollment data of over 14,000 school districts from 2000 to 2015, the study shows that the chances of a child of color from a low-income family going to elementary school with middle-class or affluent peers have been declining steadily since the start of the 21st century.
According to the study, 45% of the peers of a randomly selected child were from the middle class or above in 2000. Only 36% of a randomly selected child’s peers were from the middle class or above in 2015.
“While this increasing isolation of poor kids is due to factors like housing patterns, gentrification and cost of living and is outside the immediate control of educators and policymakers, there has also been successful programs that were able to integrate children across racial or class lines,” said Bruce Fuller, lead author of the study and UC Berkeley professor of education and public policy.
According to Fuller, programs such as Boston’s METCO and New Jersey’s Interdistrict Public School Choice Program have provided low-income students with the opportunity to attend schools in the suburbs, and the effects have been positive.
“We are arguing these findings need to really light a fire onto the backside of educators to do more in terms of integrating kids across social class lines,” Fuller said.
According to Fuller, Los Angeles County’s Burbank Unified School District’s efforts to create dual-language immersion programs and establish magnet schools has helped increase social class integration.
Fuller added that while there has been some research done in the area, the next step would be to find out more about how deteriorating integration is affecting achievement in children.
“With more information within the academic circle, these findings can be taken out and make sure policymakers and educators pay attention,” Fuller said.