Rucker Johnson talks about his new book "Children of the Dream: Why School Integration Works" April, 2019.
[Michael Barr] Good afternoon. Good morning moving into afternoon.
It's great to see such a terrific and energetic crowd here today. I’m Michael Barr. I am the dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. It is my great pleasure to welcome you all here for book talks at the ford school event today featuring our special guest Rucker Johnson. Really a leading mind in the economics of education and the way in which poverty and inequalities disproportionately affect both education and social mobility. Today Rucker is joining us to discuss his just-published book, just published literally yesterday.
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This is good. "Children of the dream: Why school integration works.” Rucker is an associate professor in the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California Berkeley. He is a faculty research associate at the national bureau of economic research. But most importantly we know with pride that he is a Michigan grad. Rucker earned his Ph.D. here and also is a Robert Johnson Fellow here and, Rucker, I’m pleased to welcome you back. I’m going to say a few more nice things; then I’ll let you talk. We’re really at a critical moment in many ways in our country's history as policymakers and others debate not only the future of public education but really the kind of society that we want to live in and, you know, if you think about the work that Rucker has been doing, the landmark case of Brown vs. Board of Education came down in 1954 but the concept of integration that that case embodies has not become the reality that anyone would want or hoped for. But still much progress has been made, and Rucker’s research really combines a wealth of different academic techniques and disciplines -- economics, sociology, social history, qualitative and quantitative empirical research -- that really brings together this wealth of information and knowledge and seeks to counter the arguments that the policies of integration have not succeeded. And he does, I think, a tremendous job delineating the possibilities of integration and the need to continue with policies that place that goal as a central pillar of public education and really our progress, as I said, on broader societal questions. So I very much look forward to the insights Rucker’s about to share. In our usual format, we'll have an opportunity after Rucker’s talk for questions that will be moderated by our students. Brian Jacob will help us stay somehow on track, and I’ll get out of the way. A real pleasure.
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[ Rucker Johnson] Thank you. It’s -- for me, it feels like a homecoming.
It feels like a family reunion. I spent many, many years here as a graduate student, at the time, more years than I would have liked. But not because it wasn't a great experience. I had great mentors. It is a great group, and it has continued to thrive since I’ve left. I guess I want to say upfront that I am also warmed by the fact that I think it's really fitting that the first day of the release of the book there are no other place I’d rather be than back where it started. At least for me, intellectually this was the origins of this workaround equity and ways to really tackle issues of inequality across education, housing, health, and really the formation of a lot of that was developed here, incubated here within the University of Michigan environment. And the Ford School certainly played a part of that. So, I’m just delighted to be here in that spirit. And let me also just say something that occurs to me as I look out and see other family and friends actually in the audience. My wife also went here. So, we're seeing family and friends. That warms my heart as well. But it reminds me of a quote that [inaudible] who was the first to be elected for a legislative seat in the country in the 2000s in Minnesota. She said, “Every time I get up to speak, I feel -- I get a lump in my throat. My grandmother says the lump you are feeling in your throat represents the voices of all the ancestors that have gone before you that have had no voice. And now you have a voice, and you are speaking on their behalf. And that's what you feel, the lump in your throat, is their voices demanding you represent their life experiences.”
Unspoken voices. And it's that lump I feel today as I open this talk. That this policy amnesia around the efficacy of our boldest education policy we've ever pursued in this nation. School integration is the most ambitious and controversial social experiment of the past 50 years, but it's widely misunderstood.
And, you know, as Mark Twain once said: it's not what we don't know that kills us, it's what we know for sure that just ain't so and as with this work, there are a lot of this amnesia about the efficacy of this policy has resulted in a series, a giant series of failed school reforms that I believe will continue if we do not fail to take serious the lessons that can be drawn from the actual effects of school integration, school funding reforms, and expansions of pre-k that were rolled out with Head Start. I think it's imperative that we import the lessons from those three policies in their continuum and in their interactive effects if we are to address in the contemporary policy debates the persistent gaps of opportunity that exist between children from lower-income families and communities versus their more affluent counterparts. Now, we think that we understand integration. We think we understand what it is and what it was. But I would offer to you we don't and haven’t, that there's actually three myths of school integration that I just want to put forth to you up front. One, we tried for a very long time. Number 2, it didn't work and, number 3, it's no longer relevant for today; it’s antiquated. There’s no contemporary relevance beyond desk drawer history to be disposed of; it was just about shuffling schoolchildren around schools. Now while I understand that that's kind of a simple set of facts that people think are true, the reality is quite the opposite. That the reality is we only really had a 15-year window of significant integration efforts. So, while we're approaching the window of time which significant immigration activity occurred within schools is this really compressed window where we gave up far too soon and where we've reached peak integration levels in 1988.and in every year since, we've regressed progressively, so we’re now at the levels of segregation that prevailed before bussing even began. Our schools and our classrooms are segregated in such a way that it's hard to detect brown ever even occurred.
Now, the second point about it didn't work. I hope to convince you today not only of the evidence that it worked, but the point that the greatest period of convergence in racial convergence in educational attainment, in achievement gaps, in earnings, in health, in various other indicators of wellbeing, in poverty, the greatest convergence that we have witnessed is the period that corresponds and overlaps with cohorts that were exposed to this significant integration. I hope to convince you that that is not a coincidence but is a direct product of these efforts. But it remains largely an unfinished agenda — finally, the relevance issue. I want to offer to you today that the surges of racial prejudice, the political polarization, the increasing economic inequality we've witnessed, I want to offer to you those aren't consequences either. These are long-term exposures that we're able that are exacerbated by the inequality of resources across our public schools. It’s not that all of the issues have the roots in public schools. But it's that our public schools have reinscribed some of the inequality and reproduced it across generations in ways that can be counteracted in evidence-based ways. So what I want to do in this talk, if I’m able to do due diligence, is to just provide a capsule of a -- like in a book tour way, like a tour of the book as in just to give you some of the elements of the argument to transform this conversation from ones that have to do with myths to truths.
And, remember, I’m not really here to give my opinion. You don't really need another person with an opinion. Without data really, we're just another person with an opinion. This is about evidence-based advocacy around policies prescriptions about what works, why does it work, when does it work and causal evidence about whether we can replicate the success of past policies and how that can be leveraged going forward. Now, I guess what I want to say up front that has to do with these components is that segregation is not just about separation of people, but it's actually a hoarding in fact of opportunity. It’s that what we're talking about with regard to desegregation is going from desegregation to integration is moving from access to inclusion. It’s moving from exposure to understanding, and that is not a process that starts overnight but it is something that's not simply about the diversity of schoolchildren and how many black kids are in the same classroom as white kids, but it’s about how resources are distributed across schools. Whether all kids have access to high-quality teachers and culturally relevant pedagogy. Beginning in the earliest years. Even when I’m talking about integration, I don't only mean integration as the policy that is aimed to assign students to schools in so that they're exposed to more diverse peers, but I’m talking about teacher diversity. I’m talking about teachers as the most important resource that schools offer. I’m talking about the ways we invest in our teachers through per-pupil spending in the way that affects class sizes. I’m talking about how early we invest in these schools to accommodate the fact that half of the achievement gap that we see appearing in third grade was already apparent at kindergarten entry. I'm talking about we have to have an integration of the approaches of school funding reform, pre-k spending, but all in the kind of foundational building blocks and integrated environments. That is going to be the key argument that I am going to put forth to you today. I just want to put up front that the politics of reform are often overtaking the evidence around these issues. That politicians tend to be fixated on budget deficits. When we should be more concerned with the deficits of opportunity facing children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Now, I am an empirical researcher, an economist, a public policy professor. What we try to arm our students at the Goldman school which I am sure is true here at the Ford School is there's a certain part of the job that we're trying to impart to students that can be seen as a type of meteorologist. Where we diagnose. We make projections. We use the best evidence to form our policy prescriptions, and what's clear about the forecast is that diversity is the centerpiece of our collective future as a nation. The only question is whether we're going to prepare our students today for that reality and harness the immense value of diversity. That's the choice before us.
And what I am going to just try to layout is why this is an imperative and urgent agenda today. Despite the unprecedented racial diversity of our schoolchildren today. Again, half of today's children attend hypersegregated schools where more than three-quarters of their peers are of the same race. Either all white, three-quarters white or all minority. Three-quarters minority. So that is important as a back story. Now, what I want to kind of outline to you as a starting point is that the achievement gap that you are seeing here by income has increased significantly by about two-thirds since, you know, over the last several decades and what is important about that is it's currently about the same magnitude as the black-white achievement gap was before Brown. We're talking about more than one-and-a-half grade levels behind on average poor kids are from lower-income backgrounds than more affluent backgrounds.at the same time when we look at the black-white achievement gap, what you see in the figure in the dotted is a black-white achievement gap that was reduced by about 40 percent and then has been stagnant since, basically, beyond 1980.what I want to convey to you is that, again, that is not a coincidence. That period of unprecedented narrowing of the achievement gap is corresponding directly, and we show that school integration played a dominant role in that convergence and the resegregation of our schools is playing a critical role in the academic achievement gap fa we've seen? Are we good? I am more of a call and response type of person. So I just need to know that we're on the same page.[ laughter ]okay. So, every now and then I am going to say amen. Just kidding. But I’m going to say are you with me?[ laughter ]let me just remind us where we started. So, brown, before brown, we have a map here just displaying that most of the time when people think about brown they think of it as a singular case from Topeka, Kansas. And, you know, it is this singular case when in fact it represented five cases across five different states. And the kind of approach that was used to enable brown to be successful that the NAACP pursued has some parallels with the imperil approach taken in the book. Meaning that we're not really looking to provide evidence from a single place or a single point in time. We’re looking to create nationally represented evidence to summon a new consensus around race and opportunity using the best available data longitudinal from birth to adulthood across several generations to kind of isolate and map out the mechanism to which these policies are having an effect. What you see here is simply legal segregation required throughout the confederate south, and you are seeing in California legal segregation permitted in green. Basically, including D.C., legal segregation required. What I want to kind of point out is that it wasn't as if brown happen and a light switch turned on, and schools became integrated. Now you should know when we're talking about, again, moving from desegregation to integration, these require a set of processes where when I am talking about integration I want you to recognize that integration is about redistributing schoolchildren to accomplish the goal of equal educational opportunity. School funding reform is about redistributing school resources.
And the pre-k expansion through Head Start is about redistributing the timing of investments and moving them back to their earliest years of cognitive development. What I am offering is that what we find is not only do these three policies independently have important , but the most important take away from the work is the synergies between these three approaches to equal opportunity. When we do them in concert, that the impact and the combined impact is much greater than the sum of the individual parts or the effects of doing them in isolation.
And too much of the time we have drawn on the integration or the school funding reform or the pre-k investments as panaceas. That you could do them and expect everything else to be disconnected as if children's lives are disconnected in such a way when in fact the connections between early life educational and health investments have to be connected to the educational environments they attend. Now, some people offer, when I am kind of in the first points of this to say, haven't we already tried these things? Again, I’m just trying to relay that we've done them in very inconsistent, not just inconsistent, but incomplete ways, not the kind of holiest way, and it's been uneven across place and time, but it's exactly that reality that gives researchers like me the ripe conditions for national experience of policy innovation to be able to extract places that are otherwise similar children but exposed to vastly different school environments and contrast what their life trajectories were as a consequence. It’s that kind of randomized quasi-experimental design where the slow and uneven pace of integration creates this ability to credibly evaluate what works and when does it work. So, while some black students say, born in 19 sixty may have been exposed to integration throughout their school-aged years, another black child in a different district may not have experienced integration for any of their school-aged years because integration and court orders occurred much letter in their district. There may be a child born in 70s by the time court-ordered integration came to their school district of upbringing but their younger sibling who was five years younger experienced all of their middle school and high school years in integrated environments. We’re going to make contrasts that sharp and we see abrupt differences in the life outcomes. What I want to say about the life outcomes is we want to understand the mechanism about whether it's class size reductions, whether it's school spending increases, whether it's pre-k investments. We want to unpack those things. But first I want to begin with what was school integration because a lot of time people think of it as a peer exposer when a big component was the school resource equity achieved from it. Most of the school spending before integration and court orders were drawn were allocated disproportionate to the majority of white schools within the district. What school integration did is basically lifted up the school resource spending to the levels that white children were already previously getting. I was just drawing on the fact that there's about a thousand school desegregation court orders since 1954 and most of the activity took teeth after in enforcing it.
Basically, that's why we see an acceleration in integration. What I wanted to show you with this map is simply the map of this timing. Where you see a red is where the first court orders were drawn. This is 1954. I want you to see how little activity happens before 1964 and then accelerates. So, that by 1973, the south is more integrated than the rest of the country. Now the other thing I want you to see is by 1990 there become as resegregation of schools where there's a lifting of the court orders. It starts accelerating after in the 2000s so that the pink rents the release of the court orders. It’s basically returning kids to be assigned to their neighborhood schools. Because of the entrenchment of racial segregation, that cements the resegregation patterns coupled with people gerrymandering school district boundaries and other aspects of charter school growth that I’ll maybe touch on in question and answer. But the reason why that kind of timing is important is as Walter Gellhorn a legal scholar described the pace as an arthritic snail. You have to appreciate, like, these were hard-fought battles, but the actual efforts were implemented slowly. Remember the 1960s is a miracle in policymaking. Meaning there's all kinds of Medicaid, Medicare, Title 1, Higher Education Act that first put major federal investments and loans, the federal Fair Housing Act, and I just ran out of room on the slide. The point is you have to have a very effective research design that can identify the school integration, school funding reform, pre-k investments that are independent of all of these other components.
And that's where the timing of the implementation of these policies plays a critical role in being able to do that. Let me just say one last piece which is really about the book and how we know what we know. I had done a lot of the quantitative evidence, and one thing I learned early on is that there’s a lot of living history about how people experience integration that can't be extracted from quantitative data. And so, what I realized early on is I had to actually talk to a great deal of the early pioneers of integration. We went to Charlotte and Memphis, and Boston two really get a clear-eyed look about what the actual dimensions of these policies were and that really aided significantly in our understanding of this. Let me just give you an example from Chicago public schools. This is the first integrated cohort of Chicago public schools. This is Avalon Park.
Anybody from Chicago? Okay. So, this is Avalon Park. This is March '64. This is the kindergarten cohort. I want to pay particular attention to Dr. Paul Gorn, the superintendent, got his doctorate at Stanford, got mentored by -- well I don't need to say all the networks. But the point is, like, hey, this looks like a pretty integrated environment yes? By third grade, this was his class. Now let me show you where Paul is because it's hard to see where Paul is.[ laughter ]Paul is still smiling. But Paul doesn't have so in classmates that are of his race. The white flight that generally took hold in a lot of these places is a significant component. This is third grade, this is fourth grade, but this isn't just in Chicago public schools. This is throughout the system. The white flight component was an important piece. What I am going to try to document here in the work is simply that we're going to show how integration not only improved the outcomes for African Americans but that it did not harm whites, but in fact it increased their empathy and value of equity. That we look at racial attitudes in adulthood and we show their relationship to how integrated their school environments were as children.
And we show how their racial attitudes on politics, racial attitudes on racial prejudice and indices that social psychologists have developed. We are able to document how those attitudes in adulthood expressed are connected with these exposures to integration. Now I didn't make mention but one of Paul Goran’s colleagues, African American dr. forest jones, who we also interviewed throughout the book, he ended up becoming one of the leading physicians that would desegregate Chicago public hospitals. The other thing about this is that hospital desegregation played a critical role in some of the effects we're going to translate. Now, these are -- this is Dorothy Scoggins, she is the first to desegregate Charlotte public schools, it wasn't a warm reception. This is Kyles in Memphis in Memphis public schools. Her dad was a pastor and was very close to Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. So, we use this timing of the court orders to be able to have quasi-experimental variation to isolate the school reform components of impacts apart from these other pieces. In the first piece just to describe this is these are the years before the court orders, and this is a measure of racial segregation. What you are seeing is basically about no preexisting time trend but basically a 30-percentage point drop in racial segregation following the court orders. That has been documented elsewhere, but this is a nasty representative of evidence to do it for the whole universe of schools across the country over time. What we find is that the impacts on school spending are significant particularly for minorities. So that we find basically a 20 percent increase in school spending for black kids that were exposed to integrated environments versus the amount of spending that people from the same schools were before the court order. So, these kind of leveling up school resources to the levels that whites were already getting is a significant increase in school spending that integration achieved and that led to significant reductions in class size.
somehow related to teachers. That term class size determines teacher salaries. those are components that are important. We use data from the panel study economics here at the University of Michigan, the longest running panel data center in the world, because you all should know about its richness. So I am not going to describe its richness because you all should know since you are here, but if you don't, it is a treasure trove of when you want to study questions that have to do with the factors that affect upper mobility, this is one of the best sources of that. We use data from 13,300 folks who have been followed every year from birth to adulthood, and we have the oversample of blacks and low-income families. In the interest of time, I want to give you the key take homes as opposed to all this. So, let me just -- the key take homes first are as late as 19 sixty -- let me make sure I get that statistic correct.as late as 1960 only 20 percent of black men graduated from high school compared to 50 percent for white men.as late as 1960, only 3 percent of black men had college degrees, compared to 13 percent of men. By the late '70s and early '80s,the rates of college enrollments for 18 and 19-year-olds for African Americans had risen to the same level as whites. That’s a striking convergence, but we're going -- what we're going to document is that school integration played a dominant role in that convergence. Here is an example. The years leading up to integration notice this is for whites. The first thing I want to point out is whites you are going to see a flat throughout most of these outcomes. It’s not because it didn't have impacts on racial attitudes, but the key point is that the effects and positive effects for African Americans did not come at the expense of whites. Now the point is for African Americans there's a dose response, with each year of exposure there is a significant -- think about like if you have a -- think about whether it's school funding reform or desegregation or pre-k, that's what I am administering as the prescription for change and you can imagine that the longer the dose is administered, the more significant improvement in the wellbeing and the health of the achievement of children. What we're seeing exactly in the number of years of exposure and the amount of school resource changes that happen as a result of the intervention. We’re seeing significant dose-response with regard to that. Are we okay? So, we see that in educational attainment. We see this in high school graduation rates. Significant improvements in high school graduation rates. We’re seeing significant improvements in wages. We’re talking about basically wages for children that were exposed to integration throughout their school-aged years that are about a third higher than children from the exact same district but grew up in segregated environments. The most important component is that then translated into a big enough effect to break the cycle of poverty. That in adulthood their likely incidents of poverty in adulthood was cut more than in half and we're seeing just basically there's not been a school reform effort that has been as effective in terms of breaking the cycle of poverty. And we see a similar thing with regard to the fact that a lot of the early antecedents to criminal involvement are poor access to quality schools as a youth and poor school performance in the like. And what we really document not just in the school integration intervention but in the school spending reforms that we are able to document that the investments in school spending and school integration have been among the most effective crime-fighting tools that we have to prevent criminal involvement. Remember, prevention is the best cure. Okay? But what we're usually using criminal justice policies to do is to address what insufficient investments in health and education do not do. So, the point of this is, you know, we're showing significant reductions in incarceration associated with not just school desegregation as I am showing here but, in the work, we find for school spending as well as Head Start.
And finally, let me just say that some of the ways in which these impacts occurred are also through hospital integration. So what hospital integration did is for the first time gave access and helped with access to pediatric care for lower income but particularly African Americans, and that we show improved infant health, and then we later showed that healthier children are better learners. So, it's not like so surprising, but it actually goes quite against the conventional wisdom around these policies not being able to not just work beyond education but these other outcomes. So, one of the things that people often think about is it’s often been said that the currency of inequality is best measured in differences in life expectancy and in quality of life. It’s really in that way that the reciprocal of poverty is health and what we show is that adult health status outcomes improve significantly for black children with access to integrated schools and better-funded schools.
And the impact of being exposed to integrated schools throughout the school-age years is like gaining seven years of life. It’s like the level of health deterioration is on par with being seven years younger. So I guess to put a cap on some of this, let's just think about state spending. So, right now the judicial landmarks of the court-ordered school desegregation cases also provided some of the foundation for the litigation around school funding reforms and the constitutionality of solely relying on the local property tax finance system. Where your school level system of funding would be solely a property of property tax wealth, because of the levels of segregation and our heavy reliance on local property tax base to fund schools it's historically led to significant per pupil spending differences and it's the state school finance reform cases that played central role in narrowing those gaps. So, we marry the analyses to those of school funding reforms and see similar significant impacts. Let me just give you a quick summary on so you can see the relevance of today. Today about 75 percent of school spending disparities occur between states. Maybe three decades ago it was the reverse. Because much more of the school spending differences occurred within states. Because of the significance of relying on local property tax base. School funding reforms were the most important, you know, kind of funding foundational change for these changing the school spending.
And what we show is that significantly affected the same sets of outcomes. So, what I want to kind of tie together with this is think about the states that spend the most in per-pupil spending in real dollars even after taking in the cost of living differences. Who do you think they are? Brian, don't say.
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Massachusetts is number one. Where else?
[Rucker Johnson] No, unfortunately. I can't concur with that. So, New Jersey. If you look at spending disparities between rich and poor districts this is by state, Pennsylvania is the worst. That is their lower-income districts spend a third less than their more affluent districts, and they generally are serving kids that have much greater need. Much higher concentrations of poverty, more special needs, more limited English language speakers. The cost of educating those children is much higher, but they get a third less resources per pupil. Now, we look at California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey as case studies in part because it allows us to look at children that are otherwise similar but are in very different equity and school resource systems. What we find is the gaps that I showed you in student achievement, they're growing and accelerating in Pennsylvania, and they're narrowing in New Jersey. That's not a coincidence. That’s related to the school spending. Let me give you another just quick point on this. We said that Michigan -- no not Michigan. We said that Massachusetts and New Jersey are one and two in per-pupil spending. You know what they're last in? Criminal justice expenditures. You know what you want to be last in? Criminal justice expenditures.
There’s not a coincidence the states investing more in pre-k and pre12 spending are seeing future cost in criminal involvement reduced. We’re showing causal evidence to make that connection. That places that have very low spending, per-pupil spending on schools -- Oklahoma and some states throughout the south -- we're seeing huge impacts later on for that neglect that is manifesting in dislocation regarded to incarceration. The arguments about that are all in the book. I admit this is more big picture than all the science behind it. What I am saying is we use the timing of, say, New Jersey. For every dollar spent on high-income districts low-income districts receive $6.places like Pennsylvania, the state is not really narrowing playing a significant role in narrowing the gaps. We use those differences to isolate the impacts. The last thing I am going to close on that has to do before I kind of turn to some of the more contemporary issues around resegregation is the impacts of pre-k spending. What you want to remember is that with regard to brain development there's, like, a million new neuro-connections, that happen between 0-3.
Neuroscience research is showing are hugely sensitive to environmental stressors. That when children lack nurturing kind of fostering interpersonal connections in those years, that that neglect causes the connections in the brain to not develop in the same rate, and that the latent impacts of those, while they're not measurable in the traditional quantitative data, they show up in the footprint that shows up when we're looking at some of those achievement gaps that we see many elementary school years. Head Start was designed to not just be a kind of investment in school readiness, but an investment in the ability to acquire future knowledge. So, what we're trying to do is recognize that Head Start in that era pre-dated some of the Medicaid rollout. These were some of the first time these low-income children had access to pediatric care, and we document how the health component of the pre-k expansions really interacted in synergistic ways with the positive impacts for the k-12 spending improvements. This is 1965.we're going use that same idea of the fact that the rollout of Head Start and the rollout of school funding reforms and school integration happened at different times with different intensity across place to then have this natural experiment of looking at differences for otherwise similar children that were exposed, say, at four years old whether there was a Head Start program in their school. Red represents the 300 poorest counties in the country because they received some concentration of attention given their -- like the concentration of high poverty is almost all in the south in this era. This is 1964.where you see a blue is where there is a first Head Start center. What I want you to see is how rapidly Head Start and pre-k programs were rolled out in the united states. Because I am in a rush, you saw it fast, but the majority had their first Head Start center established between 1965 and 1970. What we're able to do is then look at the fact that that rollout had 900,000 cases of dental problems.
Vaccinations. A million given measles vaccine. Some of you who are physicians in the room, and, Dr. Boyd, appreciate that without these health investments that, you know, people don't have the same capacities to learn. What we're able to show is by looking at the same children across areas we find basically that the same amount of k-12 spending when it's preceded by high-quality pre-k access, it doubles the efficacy of the same k-1 spending increase. You could have the same increase in school spending, but if it was preceded by children having access to a high-quality pre-k center when they were 4, the return on the public investment in k $12 doubles with regard to improvement in high school graduation rates, college-going rates, adult earnings and even reductions in incarceration. So, because I’m just out of time what I am really trying to underscore is with a ten percent increase in k-12 spending versus ten percent decrease in k-12 spending, how the impacts depend critically on whether you have Head Start versus you don't have Head Start. And these are for outcomes that relate to the likelihood of graduating from high school. We’re seeing a 15 percentage point increase of graduating from high school if there's a 10percent increase in k-12 spending if you have Head Start access, but if you have the Head Start access, but you subsequently went into a poorly funded k-12 school, that idea of fade out is not necessarily reflective of the pre-k environment not being good but rather that the low efficacy of early life intervention is critically hinging on whether quality investments in the k-12 schools can continue to develop those skills when they're going to underfunded schools, it's not surprising that there's, you know, those investments more rapidly. We see the same thing on wages, high school graduation, incarceration. I hate to leave you on a sadder note, but the sad note is we haven't really appreciated the impacts of those longer-term impacts. We’ve focused too heavily on short-run test scores, and too heavily on ways in which segregation can sometimes mitigate the efficacy of those programs and policies. I was telling you about the resegregation of schools is directly released to the court order that accelerated and gained ammunition with the two thousand parents involved case that involved Seattle and Louisville.
You may know that justice Roberts in his ruling, basically the decision was that race could not be used as a sole factor in student school assignments. Which in justice Roberts ruling basically equated racism, segregation, with efforts to address racism, integration. So, the idea of race not being able to be used as a factor is something that now encumbers some of the efforts. It’s probably the single most legal barrier that has to be overcome with contemporary integration efforts that I’ll just make mention of.
Another component that has to be appreciated is that even as early as third grade, take a black and white child that has the same test score, same level of achievement. Say they're both high achievers. The black child has a third less likelihood of being passed in the gifted program as a third grader. When interventions have been done, this is research from Vanderbilt, have shown when black teachers are the ones that have been in charge of the placement, that those levels have actually been significantly narrowed. It underscores the idea of implicit bias and the ways in which we may be underestimating the potential of minority kids in general. When we talk about desegregated schools, it's not enough to have desegregated schools if we have segregated classrooms. the offering of AP course work, the offerings of gifts and talents, college preparatory work, that has to be part of what we're calling integration. Otherwise, this is not something that is going to be a cure-all in any stretch of the imagination. Let me just show you leading up to the lifting of court orders. This upward trajectory in high school graduation rates is what we were seeing before court orders were lifted. After the court orders are e are released we really saw a flattening and kind of flat line on the improvements in graduation rates. Now I think ultimately, we care about these issues not only for the kind of tangible outcomes that we can more easily measure on -- economic indicators, educational indicators, incarceration, and health -- but we also care about some of the more intangible aspects. Proposes that when people are exposed to diverse groups that it causes their understanding, their empathy to be -- I’ll just say it the way Martin Luther King phrased it, people fail to get along because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don't know each other. They don't know each other because they have not communicated with each other. What we try to do to test the hypothesis is again with a national longitudinal study of adolescent health, we were able to get national represented data on adult racial prejudice and racial intolerance measures and measures about the diversity of the neighborhoods they're in as adults and the diversity of the schools they send their children to and we're able to relate that to their exposure to diverse schools as children.
We’re able to leverage this quasi-random variation in the timing of court orders and the release of them to be able to isolate how the school exposure to diversity affects their stated preferences on political partisanship and other measures. What we find is significant relationships where the probability of having no racial diversity in their friendship networks in adulthood, the racial diversity of their adult neighborhoods, whether they've ever had a same race partner, whether they liberal political views, all those factors are significantly associated with the diversity of the schools in which they attended. So, we really are trying to offer that the ways in which these impacts should be considered are not just along the educational margins. Finally, I said this at the beginning, but we follow children not just from birth to adulthood, but across generations. So, all of the folks who were in the first integrated cohorts that are, say, in their 30s, 40sand 50s, they all have their own kids, and many of them are entering young adulthood. We’re able to trace the impacts of integration not just for that generation that attended integrated schools but whether they were able to pass on their advantages to their children. We’re seeing impact where black children whose parents were exposed to integrated schools interested in that side of the work, there's lots of things you can probably find in the footnotes in the bibliography as well.
[Brian Jacob] But what I am going -- my job here today is just to moderate the Q&A. So, let's see, do we have the note cards here? Am I going to do the reading? The students are going to do the reading. Okay. Will I just be standing here?
[ laughter ]
[Questioner] Hi. I’m Brittany Vasquez, a third-year student in public policy and sociology. So, the first question is asking for more context. Could you talk a little more about why the court orders were reversed?
[Rucker Johnson] I think there was a general change in the legal environment that was supporting making it easier for districts to be lifted from what's called unitary status. Where it used to be, to be released from a court order you had to demonstrate that you are making significant efforts to integrate and that after lifting it, it was going to be able to be sustained without court order mandate. But actually, it was a tool that was more designed to say we should have more local control. There’s a sacred tradition in, like, American education with local control and I think there was a more political movement around. It wasn't like in the streets, like the civil rights movement may have been and it wasn't as vocal. But it was no less effective in the strategy of, say, redrawing district boundaries in gerrymandered ways that clearly cut around what we might call railroad tracks. Socioeconomic and race lines where who is at the table, who is on the school board matters. So, there's like an economist at Duke, for example, who is using data throughout the state of North Carolina, that when school boards were more heavily dominated by Democrats, the changing of boundaries were done in a way to promote inclusion, equity, and diversity and when they would be taken over on average by Republican-dominated school boards that the reverse happened and the reverse happened quite rapidly. So I want to just offer these are not like a coincidence in simply kind of reflection of parental, individual choice. These are very much policy-induced, and charter school growth has also played a role-though I’m not saying that because I am inapparently against charter schools in principle. But the way in which they've had segregated influence along these lines cannot be ignored. Does that help? There’s more to say, but tell me what your thoughts are.
[Questioner] this wasn't my question. These are –
[Rucker Johnson] I’m looking at if you am. [ laughter ] I’m all about the call and response so you can say no, that's not what I am saying.
[Questioner] we're just reading the questions. My name is Nick. I am a master student here at the Ford School, the first question I wanted to ask you that we got from the audience. When you talk about debunking myths. How pervasive is the myth that positive impacts for black students who experienced integration doesn't cause negative impacts for white students?
[Rucker Johnson] It's huge. I mean, I don't even think statistics are effective for that some sets of audiences. I think you have to appeal to relationships. I think even the book itself. I chose to do a trade book because I realize you can hammer home statistics to a bunch of people. It doesn't necessarily by itself provoke change, empathy or something that would be akin to we have to have an urgent policy agenda around it. I am an economist. Policy is what I do. I teach at a policy school. So, I’m always saying evidence matters.do the statistics. I agree with all that. But what I am saying is I think the effort to communicate that this is not a zero-sum game is not something that is only effective by saying we need more integrated schools and you should send your kid to the underfunded, overcrowded school that happens to have more minorities. you don't hear me saying that because that is not what I am doing. I’m saying we have to have equitable resources across schools so integrated environments can be possible. Because as long as all the overcrowded, underfunded schools are minority, what are we talking about? We’re not going to be really having an effort and engagement with integration. I’m looking like you asked it again. I apologize.
[ laughter ]
but I think that you know when we talk to school leaders and superintendents who administered integration efforts like Dr. Burman at Louisville. After Louisville lifted the parents involved case, he was looking for guidance from President Obama to try to help with their integration efforts that they were trying to keep. They had probably the best integration plan of anywhere in the country at the time, and he was trying to kind of retain the essence of it and a lot of his job -- he is a white superintendent -- he was very candid with us in our interviews about how his biggest communication challenge was to try to convey to middle-class whites that their children were not being offered as some kind of, you know, like lamb or some sacrificial lamb like this is inequity that was building all kids ability to learn. Anyways
[Questioner] So, the next question asks: so, your study focused what we saw on black-white differences but where the Latino students in your data especially with respect to resegregation?
[Rucker Johnson] So I recognize deeply that the future of diversity is certainly not the black-white dichotomy that has historically been the focus. My emphasis here on the black-white difference is not as much about lack of awareness of the importance of Latino and other kind of groups, Asian Americans as well, about how their group dynamics affect this process. But in the time period that we have large enough sample sizes to make definitive conclusions about impacts, there's less ability to make general conclusions for Latino and Hispanic children for this era. The data that we used for the national study of adult to adolescent health has much more oversampling of Hispanic children for us to say something more about it and we do that in the book. But I would say that's certainly a big topic for future research that we are trying to do as we speak. I am coming from California, the most diverse state in the country, and we have a lot of the data on the local control funding formula about Hispanic achievement and how Hispanic achievement gaps have been narrowed –
[ laughter ]
I always feel like is that the curtain call that says your time is up.
[ laughter ]
While I didn't talk about it today, in the book and research, we are incorporating how Hispanic achievement gaps have been narrowed significantly by the school funding reforms in California, for example where we do have enough sample size to clearly document that these impacts are not specific to a group. We see the am pacts for the school funding reforms on blacks, whites, Hispanics in significantly positive ways.
[Questioner] Are there states that currently have what you would call a successful model of integrated education?
[Rucker Johnson] So, unfortunately, I have to say, a state, no and that's regrettable. I think there are states that have very progressive school funding formulas and significant expansions in pre-k investments like New Jersey, but it's in hugely segregated environments. So, if I say like there's a three-pronged approach I can identify states that have done two of the three, but I can identify no states successful in sustaining all three. When I say sustain, meaning if there was no state that ever did it I wouldn't have the results I have. There are pockets, but sustaining it, I think there's been a lack of evidence about the efficacy of it and any time you have a lack of evidence, but you have an evidence on the cost side, but a lack of evidence on the benefit side, it doesn’t take long for stuff to get cut that the political process looks for the short run, where can I identify that I’ve been successful and education and health investments aren't of that type where you see the kind of impacts that you would want overnight.
[Questioner] How about districts? Any districts that you see have done, you know, not the finance piece or the pre-k but the integration piece well?
[Rucker Johnson] yeah, um, I am going to say two things. I’m going to say, first, if you think about the Harlem children's zone, it is like a lot of the spirit of what I said but without the integration and, okay, super, super, super-affluent philanthropists that make that not as replicable. But, at the same time, the seed of the promise of it and the idea on like smaller scale I think is very promising, and it underscores the idea that we’re not making the argument that black kids have to have white kids to learn. That’s not what I hope you are hearing me say. I am saying rather than when schools are more segregated and concentrated poverty schools exist the highest quality teachers over time tend to select out of those schools either through burnout or not having the kind of sufficient support, and it leaves in its wake a lot of less advantaged children being taught by the least experienced teachers who may be very committed but certainly are not getting support in the classroom. But the original question, which is like what are -- so just to be frank about like this book process is I was planning to close the book on the district that was like the north star. The district that was going to be the integration example for the future, and that was going to be the closing chapter, and then I looked around, and I looked around, and I looked around, and we had to close this book at some point.[ laughter ]because it could not be found. So, I mean, that's the honest truth is that I think Louisville -- I think, to be honest with you, two-thirds of desegregation today exist between districts. It used to mostly be within districts, so bussing was a more viable possibility. When it's between districts because of middle-class flight, white flight, the meaningful integration that happened within district boundaries is not of the same type. So, like that's a critical barrier where we have to rethink even in a regional way and this is where the role of mixed-income housing is an essential path forward like you can't -- and this is where I would say in Minnesota with their removal of single-family zoning, which has really been designed historically to exclude lower income group housing. I’m looking out, and Paul Caron has written for decades on segregation and stuff, but the point is some of the issues that you wrote about way back, unfortunately, it's been like not so much and it's actually the consequences of being confined to a poorly functioning school system have never been greater. I think right now it requires the marrying of mixed-income housing and you have done a lot of housing work yourself. So I would offer that
[Questioner] This next question is also a clarification question. So you threw up students in hypersegregated schools being - what are you saying is the percentage or critical mass that is needed to be considering a school as integrated?
[Rucker Johnson] I don't know that there's a number I would commit to, but I think we all know what a diverse environment looks like and I don't think you need my number to know it. So I am not going to necessarily say what should be the cutoff line. But what I would just say people have a traditional view that there's no equal lib rum of integration. There’s just dipping from all white to all black, and you just found something in the middle through a transition. So, I don't have that view. I really think these can be sustainable efforts. But I think -- look at the higher ed context. We’re at public universities. I’m the product of a public university. We’re aiming to have a much more diverse graduate environment. So, I think the issue is not just a k-12 level. The Ford School I’m looking at dean Collins and dean Barr, what does it mean to have a diverse critical mass at the top policy schools in the country? These aren't questions just for k-12. I'm only saying when kids only get exposed to diversity, by the time they get to Michigan, that's a problem. When they get only exposed to diversity when they're chief of police, that's a problem, like when you have people in positions of power, it's imperative that we're developing leaders that know how to navigate the space of diversity and if we're producing leaders that have never been exposed, that aren't really engaged in communities of color and lower income communities in effective ways with a relational sensitivity, like we're really not doing our jobs as the leaders of public policy schools. So, I don't think of this as something that is something that's, you know, a k-12 question. I think of this as more of what is the role of education as institutions throughout the continue of pre-k to higher ed and what is our desperate need? Because the labor market settings increasingly saying we need workers who can work with diverse perspectives to promote innovation. So, the idea that we can continue to have schools that are homogeneous one type and think we're hoarding opportunity and not negatively affecting our children's later life success is a really strong part of the myth that wasn't on the screen, but it's certainly one of them.
[Questioner] So if you see step one of fixing this as informing people and increasing understanding, what would you say step two in terms of public policy action?
[Rucker Johnson] So first the federal involvement will require a different administration.
[ laughter ]
[Rucker Johnson] Because I want the federal government, but I have to be honest, maybe I’m on tv and not supposed to say that, but I’m going to say it. I don't think it is a mystery that Betsy Davos is not going to be engaged with these issues. I don't think that's a mystery. So, while I think the federal role is going to have to be essential because I just told you that when you leave it up to the states, there's going be some -- even with like think about the affordable care act. When we had the state options to buy in, which states didn't buy in? What is the racial concentration of disadvantaged of those states? They were disproportionately African American. the states that didn't opt in. So I think we want states to play a leading role. But I think it has to be supported with some federal incentives to make the work of integration not solely born on the backs of African Americans or lower income families to have to bear the load of that and incentivize things in a way that recognize the value. So, I think there's an important federal, state and local role, but they're different roles, and they have to be kind of done I think in concert. And I don't think that that part of it is politically going to be something that is on the horizon with this administration
[Brain Jacob] Maybe I’ll step in there. We have time for just a few questions. I’m going to ask one, and if there's someone out there who has one final question write it down quickly and get it to our student question askers.
[Rucker Johnson] Can I just say one thing? I think that in the process of going very fast, I probably neglected to contextualize the magnitude of the policy impacts I’m talking about. We’re finding basically that a spending throughout the school-age years. Which is a huge increase, but what I am saying is that estimated impact is sufficient to cause achievement gaps by low-income status to no longer exist. So, I’m not saying family background isn't still the most important determinant of children's outcomes. It is, but what I am saying is our most effective policy instrument, public policy instrument is through schools in collaboration with health and other pre-k investments, and the magnitude of the impact can really level the playing field. The inner-generational playing field. Without it, we're going to just keep repeating these cycles of achievement gaps, and it's going to feel like groundhog's day. You wake up; they're still talking about the same achievement gap of a decade ago. Then we wake up, and we're still having the conversations but not having the intention at of bold policy prescription.
[Brain Jacob] Any other -- I don't want -- any other questions?
[Questioner] You touched on this briefly, but we'll ask again. Can you talk a little bit about apcus versus non-apcus and perhaps how that could not dovetail with the idea of integration leading to better outcomes? The specific question I’ll read it, any thoughts about why integration mirrors success in k-12 while segregation [ inaudible ].
[Rucker Johnson] let me say upfront I am a product of Morehouse college. I’m very proud, and I had a choice. So, part of this is, like, I did have a choice to go to Stanford. I did have a choice, and I chose to go to Morehouse. Part of what I am talking about is when we say school choice we're trying to say what's the nature of the choice facing lower income, disproportionately minority families. if it's like a high-quality school options it's we're having a different conversation. We’re not talking about middle -- if it's school choice, but it's conditioned by resource, that's actually no choice. For a large proportion of families. So, in the same way, I would never say there's not a role for an all-women’s college or all men's -- you know I went to Morehouse. I’m not suggesting there cannot be a significant role for that. I am saying we didn't think it was right when it was forced and that's really what we're talking about the k-12 space. So, I don't necessarily think schools that are all minority have to be, like, thought of as not good. But I think if all of our schools look like that, that's not good, and that's really where we are.
[Brian Jacob] Okay. I think that is a good place to wrap up this Q&A here. In a minute I want everyone to thank Rucker, but before you do that, I want to just remind people he will be outside signing books and chatting with people, if you are interested in staying afterwards, but thank you, Rucker, for coming in and joining us.
[Rucker Johnson] thank you.[ applause ]thank you. Thank you. Thanks a lot for being here. I know it's the end of the semester. Really appreciate you!
- Rucker Johnson
- Michael Barr
- Income Inequality
- educational inequality
- economic inequality
- children of the dream: why school integration works
- UC Berkeley
- National Bureau of Economic Research
- school integration
- Student Outcomes
- school segregation
- educational opportunity
- teacher diversity
- teacher quality
- school funding
- class size
- racial discrimination
- educational attainment
- Brown v. Board of Education
- achievement gap
- black-white achievement gap