Public school closures increase in cities, but affected neighborhoods differ by region

When public primary schools close, families, teachers and public school advocates often criticize city officials saying these closures disproportionately affect the poor and under-represented, potentially exacerbating racial and socio-economic gaps in the city. these communities.

A new study, from the University of California, Davis, examined the locations of closures in 260 metropolitan areas across the United States between 2010 and 2016 and found various conditions in areas where schools close, presenting a complex picture of how whose school closures may or may not affect communities.

“We find results that do not fit the general picture of previous work – in other words, there is a lot of heterogeneity in the types of neighborhoods that are undergoing closure,” said Noli Brazil, assistant professor of ecology. human at UC Davis and lead author. of a to study published online this month in Social Science Research.

“We find support for some public claims and previous research – neighborhoods with a higher percentage of blacks, lower percentage of whites, and higher socio-economic disadvantage are more likely to experience closure.”

However, the results revealed that:

  • Neighborhoods with a higher percentage of Hispanic residents now experience a lower probability of closure
  • Urban neighborhoods facing gentrification experience a higher probability of closure
  • There are racial differences in what predicts closure in the Northeast or Midwest versus the South and West

The data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics, the School Attendance Limits Information System Project, and census data.

Regions differ

The researchers found that in the Northeast and Midwest, for example, closed neighborhoods tended to have more black residents, a lower percentage of whites, and lower socioeconomic status. These findings, they said, corroborate previous research that focused on cities in those areas with a high degree of segregation – Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit, for example. These conditions, moreover, are more pronounced for closures in cities than in the suburbs of these regions, especially urban neighborhoods plagued by gentrification, the researchers found.

Schools are less likely to close in the west and south, and there are contrasting neighborhood closure patterns between the two regions. Areas in both regions that have seen an increase in black residents are protected from closure, but the growing presence of Hispanics in the West and the growing presence of whites in the South, over time, are associated with a greater likelihood of local public schools closing.

When it comes to Hispanic populations in neighborhoods, the researchers found that previous claims that more school closings are happening “in minority neighborhoods” are inaccurate. The researchers speculate that the presence of strong socio-cultural ties among the Hispanic population that tie them to local schools might be a reason, as could less participation in charter or suburban schools. The reasons, they said, however warrant further qualitative research.

“Our study is an important step in understanding the complex picture of school closures in the contemporary urban context of school choice, gentrification and neighborhood revitalization,” the researchers said in their study.

As school closures dot the landscape, their effects – whether assessed as increased crime, reduced access to education, or decreased home values ​​- depend on the types of neighborhoods that experience the hardships. closures, the researchers said.

“Unlike previous work focused on isolated cities, our study draws on a large sample of neighborhoods to demonstrate that closures are not a monolith and that multiple models exist,” Brazil said.

The article, “The Ethnoracial and Socioeconomic Context of the Neighborhood of Public Elementary School Closings in Metropolitan Areas of the United States,” is co-authored by Jennifer Candipan, assistant professor of sociology at Brown University.

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