The Gerrymandering of School Attendance Zones and the Racial and Ethnic Segregation of American Public Schools: A Geospatial Analysis

Meredith P. Richards
Post-Doctoral Fellow
Feb 4 12:00pm - 1:30pm

In this talk, I discuss results of a study providing initial empirical evidence on the “gerrymandering” of public school attendance zones and its effect on the racial/ethnic segregation of public schools. Drawing on the literature on electoral gerrymandering, I outline a “student exchange” framework conceptualizing irregularities in educational boundaries as evidence of deliberate exclusionary zoning processes. Using a large national sample of school attendance zones spatially merged with Census demographic data, I compare the characteristics of students residing in existing attendance zones to those residing in non‐gerrymandered zones. Results indicate that the gerrymandering of attendance zones worsens racial/ethnic segregation by excluding blacks and Hispanics from predominantly white schools. The segregative effects of gerrymandering are particularly acute in smaller urbanized areas and rural localities. Moreover, federal oversight over desegregation appears to inhibit segregative gerrymandering in the South.