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Exclusionary Zoning Practices Directly Linked to Access to Quality Schools

Metropolitan Policy Program, The Brookings Institution

A new report has finally directly linked zoning practices to economic segregation and subsequently to access to high quality schools. Jonathan Rothwell, senior research analyst at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, has published a report of his analysis of national and metropolitan data on public school populations and state standardized test scores for 84,077 schools in 100 metropolitan areas through the country in 2010 and 2011. The study found that zoning regulations that are meant to keep population density low have the effect of segregating cities and towns by race and income, thus limiting access to high quality schools.

The study ranks metro areas according to school access along four measures:

  1. Test score gap - this gap is based on the difference in percentile ranking between low-income and middle/high income students on a 1-100 point scale.  The average low-income student attends a school that scores at the 42nd percentile on state exams whereas the average middle/high income student attends a school that scores at the 61st percentile on state exams. This gap is even more prevalent between black/Latino students and white students.  Unfortunately, the three Connecticut metro areas included in the study ranked among the worst in terms of school test score gap: the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk Area ranked #1, the Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford Area came in 2nd, and the New Haven-Milford Area came in fourth.
  2. Housing cost gap - this measures the difference between housing costs near high-scoring schools and low-scoring schools. Housing costs an average of 2.4 time more (almost $11,000) per year near a high-scoring school than near a low-scoring school. This results in a housing cost gap where the home values are on average $205,000 higher in high scoring school districts. With large disparities between housing costs near low-scoring schools and high scoring schools, Bridgeport again ranked #1 in this category. Hartford ranked #10 and New Haven ranked #15.
  3. Restrictive zoning - this is based on the prevalence of land –use law firms in the state. Metro areas with the least restrictive zoning have housing cost gaps that are 63% lower than metro areas with the most exclusionary zoning. All three of CT’s top ranking metropolitan areas ranked #1, indicating extremely restrictive zoning.
  4. Economic segregation - this is based on the percentage of students in each area that would need to move so that the area has an equal distribution across schools. CTs metro areas again performed poorly, with Bridgeport ranked #1, Hartford ranked #4, and New Haven ranked #7.

For the full report and for a breakout of the statistics for your metropolitan area, click here


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