School District Fragmentation and Racial Residential Segregation: How do Boundaries Matter?

Kendra Bischoff, Stanford University

Fragmentation, or the proliferation of independent jurisdictions, is a key feature of the political structure in many metropolitan areas in the United States. This paper engages sorting theories to investigate racial segregation as one potential negative consequence of school district fragmentation in metropolitan areas. My main results suggest that fragmentation does increase multiracial segregation between districts. Using a decomposable segregation measure, I also find that fragmentation has a negative impact on segregation within districts and no significant effect on tract-level segregation. Additionally, the results suggest that the causes of segregation may differ for various race/ethnic groups. I use this context to further the discussion of appropriate units of analysis for segregation measures. I argue here that segregation between political units may in fact be more appropriate than segregation between smaller units, such as census tracts, if we believe that the negative consequences of segregation stem from access to public goods.

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Presented in Session 128: Spatial Dimensions of Local Processes