Analyzing Measures of Educational Gerrymandering: Are Irregularly-Shaped School Attendance Zones Racially Segregated?

David C Van Riper, Salvatore Saporito

Research output: Working paper

Abstract

Every school district has authority to determine how it will assign public school students to its schools. The principal assignment mechanism used by most school districts is to draw lines that comprise attendance zones. These zones designate the public school in which children should enroll given where they live. Some districts create sprawling, truly irregular attendance zones that pull children from far-flung neighbourhoods; others create compact zones that resemble regular-looking squares. Still, no one knows if and how many irregularly-shaped zones exist and whether they integrate or segregate students by race. This research addresses educational gerrymandering in three ways. First, it describes measures of four attendance zone properties: (1) shape; (2) internal racial diversity; (3) the distribution of racial groups across small areas within them; (4) the degree to which they exclude members of nearby racial groups in order to isolate the members of other racial groups. Second, it documents the correlations among these measures. The third and last contribution is to classify attendance zones into categories with the aim of identifying zones that represent the typical cases of shape irregularity and racial balance. To meet these goals, over 13,169 attendance zones embedded in 307 of the largest school districts are analyzed. Results indicate that educational gerrymandering is infrequent and when zones are shaped irregularly, they are almost always racially balanced.
Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2014

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