Interactive Map Shows How School Segregation Has Changed in Your Town

Seventy years after ‘Brown v Board of Education’ ruled “separate but equal” schools were unconstitutional, segregation in U.S. school districts is on the rise. See how your neighborhood is faring.
Stanford’s interactive map shows where school segregation persists.
Stanford’s interactive map shows where school segregation persists. / Klaus Vedfelt/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Seventy years ago this week, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Brown v Board of Education, ruling that “separate but equal” schools segregated by race are unconstitutional. The case remade public education in the U.S., toppled a centerpiece of Jim Crow, and begat an integration process that too often brought out the worst in people

School segregation is still very much a problem in the U.S. Researchers at Stanford and the University of Southern California marked the Brown anniversary by launching Segregation Explorer, a website with current hyperlocal data on school segregation throughout the country. You can look up your own school or district, get its demographic data, and see the changes since 1991. 

Nationwide, racial school segregation is not comparable to the days before Brown, but the researchers behind the project say that segregation between white and Black students has increased by 64 percent since 1988 in the nation’s 100 largest districts. Segregation by economic status (as measured by data about eligibility for free lunches) has increased by about 50 percent since 1991.

Marchers protest school segregation in 1979.
Marchers protest school segregation in 1979, 25 years after the landmark Supreme Court case that declared “separate but equal” schools unconstitutional. / Keystone/GettyImages

Segregation by ZIP code may seem a likely culprit, but that actually declined in large districts, the researchers say. Instead, they point to the easing of court oversight and school choice. Since 1991, about two-thirds of school districts that were under court-ordered desegregation plans were released from them and the rise of charter schools has had the effect of placing children into more racially homogenous schools. 

On the Segregation Explorer site, you can get a breakdown of racial demographics in a majority of public schools. The site gauges segregation within states, counties, and school districts through a metric called the normalized exposure index [PDF]. It is a scale from zero to one; zero implying that two groups have equal exposure to each other and one indicting complete segregation of two groups. You can also look at segregation between white and Latino or Asian students.

The plaintiffs in Brown convinced the Supreme Court that segregated schools are inherently harmful—and research into modern-day school segregation has shown a span of negative consequences. It tends to push Black and Latino students into schools with lower revenue, higher dropout rates, less experienced teachers [PDF], and more security guards than mental health counselors. See how your neighborhood is faring here.

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