New Jersey has failed to reduce segregation

Amid demographic changes that are reshaping the state’s student population, new research from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA makes clear the state of New Jersey has made little if any progress toward reducing the segregation of Black and Hispanic students in the state’s schools.

More than one quarter of the state’s Black students attend schools where less than one percent of students are white, and the number of Hispanic students attending these “apartheid schools” has doubled since 1989 and continues to increase.

The large majority of Black and Latino students attend schools doubly segregated by both race and income.

“While New Jersey has taken historic steps to equalize funding for high poverty schools, segregation has gone largely unchecked,” says Professor Gary Orfield, co-director of The Civil Rights Project at UCLA. “New Jersey will have a future with no racial majority, greatly challenged by severe racial stratification and division.”

The report, New Jersey’s Segregated Schools Trends and Paths Forward, updates earlier research published by the Civil Rights Project in 2013. That report detailed troubling racial and economic segregation trends and patterns from 1989 – 2010.

The new report includes new data from 2010-2015. The research updates public school enrollment trends and details segregation in the state’s schools by race and income. It also includes information about segregation in private schools and examines student enrollment trends in charter schools and their potential to increase segregation.

The report also includes new research on segregation in pre-k schools. A new analysis looks at the plight of students who are English Language Learners, finding many attending schools triply segregated by race, income and language.

“The findings of this research are deeply disturbing. Continuing segregation poses harm to a large and growing sector of the state’s population and forgoes the benefits desegregation could bring to the Garden State for all students”, says Orfield. “New Jersey has the capacity to address the challenge, but little has been done to do so since our initial report. The challenge will only grow more difficult with time. The time to act is now. “

Key findings of the report include:

A transforming student population

  • White student enrollment has declined significantly, while the Black student population has remained stable and Hispanic enrollment has increased rapidly. With Asians now making up 10 percent of overall student enrollment, a four- race student population has emerged. There is no longer a racial subgroup that makes up a majority of the public school enrollment.
  • The share of students in New Jersey schools living in poverty has increased by 10 percent since 1989-1990.
  • More than 10 percent of students in New Jersey attend private schools. While private school enrollment has declined, nearly 70 percent of private school enrollment is white and is increasing. Asian enrollment is also increasing, while the number of black and Hispanic students is decreasing. About 10 percent of black and Hispanic students attend private schools, a declining share of the total.
  • The number of charter school students is on the rise, with more than 41,000 enrolled in 2015-16. Black and Hispanic students make up 86 percent of students in charter schools. If enrollment in charter schools continues to rise. Charter Schools may exacerbate the segregation crisis in New Jersey.

Racial segregation has doubled since 1989 and is increasing for some students.

  • Between 1989 and 2015, the proportion of schools serving a majority nonwhite student population more than doubled from 22% to 46%.
  • The percentage of students in intensely segregated school, those serving a population with 0% to 10% white students—nearly doubled from 11.4% to 20.1%.
  • The proportion of students attending apartheid schools—schools serving a population with 0% to 1% white students—also nearly doubled from 4.8% to 8.3%
  • While the percentage of black students in intensely segregated schools and apartheid schools has gradually declined over the last twenty-five years, nearly half of black students attend 90-100% intensely segregated schools, and over one-quarter of black students attend schools where less than 1% of students are white.
  • The percentage of black students in apartheid schools has increased since 2010.
  • Among Hispanic students, a little over 40 percent attend intensely segregated schools, a number that has remained stable over time. But the percentage of Hispanic students attending apartheid schools in increasing, from 7 percent in 1989-90 to more than 14 percent in 2015-16
  • A large share of severe segregation is concentrated in a few intensely segregated school districts
  • The exposure of black and Hispanic students to white students is decreasing. The percentage of white students in a school the typical black student attends has decreased from 26% to 22% over the last twenty-five years. Similarly, the share of white students in a school where the typical Hispanic student attends has declined from 29% to 25% during the same period.

Black and Latino students are double segregated by race and income

  • In 2015, segregated schools—both intensely segregated schools with 0 to 10 percent whites and apartheid schools with 0 to 1 percent whites—enrolled a remarkably high percentage of students living in poverty.
  • Students living in poverty accounted for 77% of enrollment in intensely segregated schools and nearly 80% of the total enrollment in apartheid schools.
  • The typical black student and Hispanic student attend schools where nearly 60% of students are living in poverty.

Segregation Starts Early

  • The level of segregation t black and Hispanic children at the pre-K level encounter was more severe than the segregation experienced across all school levels. The typical black student went to a pre-K program where more than 80% of children were black or Hispanic

English Language Learners face “Triple Segregation” by race, income and language

  • In intensely segregated schools with 0 to 10 percent whites, one in seven students was an English learner in 2015. This was the same for apartheid schools.
  • Like poor students and black and Hispanic students, English Language Learners (ELL) tend to be isolated in racially segregated schools where the ELL share has been on the rise over time
  • In general, ELLs go to schools where a majority of their peers are from low-income families. In the typical school attended by an ELL student, nearly two-thirds of students are economically disadvantaged students.
  • A significant portion of ELLs in New Jersey are linguistically isolated. The typical ELL student is in a school where a fifth of the student population is made up of English learners. In elementary schools, ELLs tend to go to schools where ELLs account for a quarter of total enrollment

“On most of our measures of black segregation there is little progress and the situation has become notably more severe for Latino students,” said Orfield. “But the basic lesson of the report is that the future of the state and its communities depends on turning around the trends and bringing together New Jersey’s people.”

“New Jersey is a state with resources and talent and does not face a problem without solutions — but it is on a path that will make things worse,” said Orfield. “Turning onto a viable future path will take understanding and leadership and could produce very large rewards.”


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