Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Education, income inequality, residential segregation
Is racial residential segregation or integration a stronger predictor of educational attainment? Does the racialized direction of this relationship matter? Drawing from Wilson’s (1987) social isolation theory and Massey and Denton’s (1993) theory of racial segregation and poor neighborhood formation, I propose that 1) greater residential racial homogeneity and 2) greater white residential segregation will increase average educational attainment at the county level. I analyze data from the 2016 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps along with the 5-year 2011-2015 American Community Survey, both of which yield a total population size of 3,141 counties. The study reveals that the impact of residential segregation on academic achievement is indeed racialized: white residential segregation most strongly affects county percent high school graduation. General residential segregation, however, is positively and significantly related to high school and graduate/PhD degree level completion. Nevertheless, median household income and county rurality are consistently the strongest predictors of high school and graduate/PhD completion across four regression models. While these results confirm both hypotheses, they highlight the strength of alternative explanations for educational gaps in the United States—gaps that may be more directly tied to social capital and rurality. The findings suggest that policies intending to alleviate disparities in educational attainment cannot center segregation alone, they must also offer a broader solution to social isolation and resource deprivation patterns by targeting counties with lower median household incomes and greater rurality.
Sternberg, Keara, "Birds of a Feather Succeed Together? Racial Residential Segregation and Educational Attainment" (2018). Sociology Senior Seminar Papers. 2.