Washington: White families with children typically live in less diverse areas than other racial groups, according to a recent study.
The study on racial segregation in 100 metropolitan areas found white families with children continue to live in predominantly white neighbourhoods, in part to send their children to predominantly white schools.
” Neighbourhood racial segregation has been in decline since the 1970s, but my findings show it declined more slowly among families with kids,” said University of Southern California’s Ann Owens.
“This means that children are surrounded by greater racial homogeneity in their neighbourhoods than adults,” added Owens. “A lack of diversity could have a significant effect on the development of their racial attitudes and future education and employment.”
In neighbourhoods, housing and urban policies have been key for curbing segregation, she said. The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule of 2015, for example, reiterated the aims of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, requiring municipalities that receive federal housing funds to conduct fair housing assessments.
“The progress made in integrating neighbourhoods could be thwarted by policies or policymakers’ efforts to dismantle these efforts,” she said. “Because neighbourhood racial segregation remains higher among children than adults, children may face greater consequences of any rollbacks of support for fair housing policies.”
For the study, Owens estimated school-age children’s exposure to white and minority children within neighbourhoods, and then compared it to adults’ exposure. Owens also measured “evenness” – how whites, blacks, Latinos, Asian-Americans and others sort across neighbourhoods. Both measures of segregation indicate that children are more racially segregated between neighbourhoods than adults, with white children living in slightly more white neighbourhoods than white adults.
School district boundaries are a key factor contributing to segregation among families with children. Owens found that neighbourhood racial segregation across the country appeared to be driven largely by white families with children who are choosing, consciously or not, to move to neighbourhoods and school districts with fewer minorities.
Although segregation has declined overall, it remains a concern, Owens said, because segregation can be detrimental for child wellbeing. Scientific research has shown that low-income and minority children who grow up in segregated neighbourhoods and attend segregated schools have worse educational and economic outcomes than children in more integrated areas. High levels of residential segregation have been linked to lower levels of income mobility across generations.
Among the 100 largest metropolitan areas, Los Angeles has one of the highest rates of segregation between white and Latino children, even after adjusting for the large Latino child population in Los Angeles, Owens said.
In 2010, Latino children, on average, lived in Los Angeles neighbourhoods where 75 percent of the children in their neighbourhood were also Latino and 9 percent were white.
White children lived in Los Angeles neighbourhoods where, on average, 32 percent of the children in their neighbourhood were Latino and 46 percent were white. The racial makeup of the neighbourhoods did not reflect Los Angeles County’s demographic composition of 61 percent Latino and 17 percent white among school-age children.
“If segregation were not occurring, then all children would live in neighbourhoods and attend school in districts with this majority Latino, minority white ratio,” Owens said.
Owens said like the neighbourhoods, school districts in Los Angeles County also do not reflect the county’s demographic makeup.
Neighbourhood racial diversity is also influenced by the factors that families, with and without children, consider when selecting where to live. Families with children appear more concerned about what school district their neighbourhood is linked to, and they may even consider race as a factor, Owens said.
“White parents may be avoiding school districts where black and Latino children live because they use racial composition as a proxy for quality of a school and a neighbourhood,” she said.
Minority families may have different priorities in deciding where to live, Owens suggested as explanations for the differences between households.
“Black and Latino families have lower incomes on average than white families, and they face housing market discrimination that influences where they live, regardless of the high value that they may place on school options,” Owens said.
When choosing a house or apartment, minority families may prioritize safety, home or apartment amenities, and the home’s proximity to child care and employment over schools or other considerations.
“Minority parents also may evaluate schools differently than white parents and prefer schools where their children are not the minority,” Owens wrote.
“As long as neighborhoods are demarcated by school district boundaries limiting enrollment options, parents will take these boundaries into account when making residential choices, which may contribute to segregation between white and minority children,” Owens wrote.
The study is published in The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences. (ANI)