The Intersection Of Housing Segregation And Education Inequity

By: Alexia Cousins, Research Associate

Growing up, I remember my parents trying to enroll me in magnet schools to avoid sending me to public school districts.  Coming from a low-income community, the regional magnet schools and charter schools were regarded as having more resources to meet the needs of students.

Connecticut is among the most racially segregated states in the country (CT Zoning and Discrimination, 2021). This is a result of systemic oppression and racist zoning policies that continue to affect the lives of people today. The impact of past and current segregation in Connecticut on Black and Brown communities is far-reaching, including the focus of this piece, education inequity. Education plays a major role in overcoming poverty but unfortunately due to the segregation that exists, Black and Brown communities are not afforded the same opportunities for quality education as their White counterparts.

When examining housing segregation and how it plays a role in underfunded education, it is crucial to also acknowledge the systemic oppression that has led us here in making it difficult for communities of color and historically oppressed groups to have access to the same quality of housing and educational opportunities. (Fair Housing Act, segregation, Jim Crow, housing discrimination)

Where one lives is a determinant of their quality of education. Several factors affect quality in education: funds allocated to each student, attendance, test scores, and graduation rates. When examining quality of education through the components previously mentioned, we begin to see disparities among districts that are primarily White compared to districts that are primarily Black and Brown. These disparities in the public education system make it difficult for students of color to have access to the same quality of education, limiting their ability to obtain higher education opportunities and escaping poverty. The students who attend schools in districts that are predominantly Black and Brown have an increased risk for school suspensions, chronic absenteeism, lower grades, lower graduation rates, and behavioral-related problems compared to students who do not. This risk poses a threat to equitable investments in the future of these students. Students should be granted the opportunity to learn social-emotional skills and achieve academic success no matter what community they live in.

Like its population, Connecticut’s schools are highly segregated. Most students attend a school district that is comprised of more than 75% White students, or a district where more than 75% of students are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) (School & State Finance Project, 2020). The chart below illustrates the relationship between economic factors (such as poverty, unemployment, and household income) and educational outcomes in a few Connecticut cities and more affluent suburbs. The socio-economic challenges of a community negatively affect student outcomes.

Important notes when interpreting the data presented below:

  • School funding is tied to a town’s tax base. In cities like Hartford, more than half of the businesses present do not have to pay taxes, which impacts the funds being allocated to the Hartford public education system. 
  • Students are defined as being chronically absent when they miss 10% or more school days within the academic year (CT Voices for Children, 2018). The disparity among school districts rates of chronic absenteeism is clear. Schools that are underfunded and made up of mostly Black and Brown students have higher rates of chronic absenteeism. Students missing school impacts the amount of learning they can receive in the classroom, thus affecting their grades and potential graduation rates. There are several reasons why a student misses school, including: chronic illness, parents not having reliable transportation, work conflicting with school schedules, mental health concerns, etc. 
  • Districts with a higher percentage of BIPOC students generally serve students with greater learning needs but spend less per student. While on the other hand, Connecticut public school districts with higher percentages of White students serve students with fewer learning needs but spend more per student (School & State Finance Project, 2020). This results in students who have greater learning needs not having as many resources to appropriately cater to their learning needs.
Indicator Greenwich Bridgeport Hartford Simsbury New Britain
Median household income $152,577 $46,662 $36,278 $123,905 $46,499
Poverty rate 6% 22% 28% 3% 22%
Poverty rate by race/ethnicity White 73%
Hispanic 14%
Black 3%
Asian 8%
Hispanic 41%
Black 32%
White 20%
Asian 3%
Hispanic 44%
Black 36%
Asian 3%
White 87%
Hispanic 5%
Asian 4%
Black 2%
Hispanic 43%
White 40%
Black 11%
Asian 3%
Median Home Value $1,251,200 $174,700 $165,300 $332,800 $160,800
Unemployment rate 6% 12% 13% 5% 11%
Chronic Absenteeism (2020-2021) 8% 28.9% 44.4% 4.5% 35.2%
Per pupil spending $24,309 $16,439 $18,702 $19,222 $15,801
Percentage of students eligible for free/reduced lunch (2021-2022) 17.5% 65.2% 76.3% 14.1% 75.4%
Percentage of students with disabilities (2021-2022) 13.7% 19.1% 20.3% 16.2% 21.8%
Suspension/Expulsion Rate (2020-2021) 0.9% 1.3% 2.0% 0.7% 0.6%
4-year graduation rate (2020-2021) 96.3% 76.0% 72.3% 98.4% 78.7%

With its history of systemic oppression and racist zoning policies, Connecticut remains among the most racially segregated states. Education inequities in Connecticut are exacerbated here because most school districts share boundaries with the municipality.

Even nearly 70 years after the landmark desegregation Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, where one lives remains a prime determinant of one’s quality of education. As long as Connecticut towns are allowed to isolate themselves from the economic needs of Black and Brown communities, it is difficult to see this changing.

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