Separate but unequal: NYU Metro Center Report examines segregation in NYC schools

October 24, 2017

A new report by the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools at New York University (NYU Metro Center) explores patterns of segregation in New York City public schools and finds a link between increased school diversity and modest academic benefits.

The report compares student outcomes in New York City's most diverse (i.e., "non-segregated") and least diverse (i.e., "segregated") schools using 2015-16 achievement and graduation data.

"While there is evidence that supports increasing school diversity, the data regarding the benefits of school diversity in New York City are complex," said David E. Kirkland, executive director of the NYU Metro Center and the report's lead author. "In many cases, the benefits associated with attending the City's most diverse schools were not equally shared across student groups."

Despite the diversity of New York City's population, many of its schools are racially segregated. In June, the New York City Department of Education released a plan to stimulate diversity in its schools. In this report, the NYU Metro Center examined whether achieving the goals outlined in the plan and increasing school diversity would lead to better outcomes for the City's most vulnerable students.

For the purposes of the report, the researchers classified the most diverse (non-segregated) schools in New York City as serving a student population that is highly racially representative, between 50 and 75 percent Black and Latino. The least diverse schools, or segregated schools, were classified as those with a student population between 76 to 100 percent Black and Latino or more than 50 percent White and either very high or very low economic needs.

Using these criteria, 109 schools were identified as the City's most diverse schools, while 839 met the criteria for the City's least diverse schools. Of the least diverse schools, 117 had a student population that was more than 50 percent White. In total, 96,444 students - or 9.1 percent of all New York City students - attended the City's most diverse schools, and 515,032 students - or 39.3 percent of students - attended the City's least diverse schools.

The researchers found that diversity in New York City schools appears to be regional, with the most diverse, non-segregated schools concentrated significantly in Queens. In addition, Black students were the most likely to attend the City's least diverse schools, comprising one-third of the population of these segregated schools, but only 19.3 percent of students attending the most diverse schools.

Analysis of 2015-16 achievement data suggests that there is a modest benefit for vulnerable students attending the City's most diverse schools. Third and eighth grade students attending the most diverse schools modestly outperformed students attending the City's least diverse schools on state standardized tests in both English and math.

In addition, students attending the most diverse high schools were slightly more likely to graduate on-time than their peers attending the least diverse schools (68.8 percent versus 66.5 percent); less economically advantaged students in particular seemed to benefit from attending the most diverse high schools. By contrast, White, Asian, and more economically advantaged students were much more likely to graduate in four years in the City's least diverse schools than their peers.

"White and Asian students seem to benefit incongruently from segregated schooling, which means that school segregation may give some students an unfair and seemingly unhealthy advantage - thus, sanctioning uneven opportunities for success," said Kirkland.

The analysis also suggests that younger students, as a whole, do not reap large benefits from attending the City's most diverse schools, but older students do - providing evidence of the long-term benefits of school diversity.

"The academic achievement and high school graduation evidence that we analyzed suggests that increasing diversity can increase equity in New York City schools and significantly decrease gaps in some student outcomes such as high school graduation," Kirkland concluded. "Thus, plans to stimulate diversity in New York City schools can pay off for the City's most vulnerable students."

The report includes recommendations for stimulating diversity, expanding opportunity, and interrupting segregation in New York City schools, including challenging "opportunity monopolies," such as specialized high schools, that only provide privileges to certain groups of students. The researchers also recommend recruiting and retaining teachers of color and hiring from the beginning culturally competent educators.
Joy L. Sanzone, associate director of policy, research, and evaluation at the NYU Metro Center coauthored the report.

About the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools (@metronyu)

The Metro Center focuses on educational research, policy, and practice. As part of NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, the Metro Center acts as a partner and resource at the local and national levels in strengthening and improving access, opportunity, and the quality of education in our schools. Its mission is to target issues related to educational equity by providing leadership and support to students, teachers, parents, administrators, and policymakers. To learn more, visit

About the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development (@nyusteinhardt)

Located in the heart of Greenwich Village, NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development prepares students for careers in the arts, education, health, media, and psychology. Since its founding in 1890, the Steinhardt School's mission has been to expand human capacity through public service, global collaboration, research, scholarship, and practice. To learn more about NYU Steinhardt, visit

New York University

Related Diversity Articles from Brightsurf:

More plant diversity, less pesticides
Increasing plant diversity enhances the natural control of insect herbivory in grasslands.

Insect diversity boosted by combination of crop diversity and semi-natural habitats
To enhance the number of beneficial insect species in agricultural land, preserving semi-natural habitats and promoting crop diversity are both needed, according to new research published in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied of Ecology.

Ethnolinguistic diversity slows down urban growth
Where various ethnic groups live together, cities grow at a slower rate.

Protecting scientific diversity
The COVID-19 pandemic means that scientists face great challenges because they have to reorient, interrupt or even cancel research and teaching.

Cultural diversity in chimpanzees
Termite fishing by chimpanzees was thought to occur in only two forms with one or multiple tools, from either above-ground or underground termite nests.

Bursts of diversity in the gut microbiota
The diversity of bacteria in the human gut is an important biomarker of health, influences multiple diseases, such as obesity and inflammatory bowel diseases and affects various treatments.

Underestimated chemical diversity
An international team of researchers has conducted a global review of all registered industrial chemicals: some 350,000 different substances are produced and traded around the world -- well in excess of the 100,000 reached in previous estimates.

New world map of fish genetic diversity
An international research team from ETH Zurich and French universities has studied genetic diversity among fish around the world for the first time.

Biological diversity as a factor of production
Can the biodiversity of ecosystems be considered a factor of production?

Fungal diversity and its relationship to the future of forests
Stanford researchers predict that climate change will reduce the diversity of symbiotic fungi that help trees grow.

Read More: Diversity News and Diversity Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to