Report

Economic and Racial Segregation in Greater Miami’s Elementary Schools: Trends Shaping Metropolitan Growth

Anne Discher, Myron Orfield and Tom Luce

Findings

An analysis of race and poverty trends in Miami-area elementary schools between 1993
and 2001 reveals that:

  • The elementary school student population
    in the Miami metropolitan area
    is growing rapidly, but the growth is
    very unbalanced.
    Regionwide, enrollment
    increased by 22 percent between
    1993 and 2001. Miami-Dade County’s
    elementary enrollment grew by 15 percent,
    while Broward County’s
    enrollment grew by 35 percent. But
    some outlying communities in the
    region saw much faster growth—in
    some cases as high as 85 percent.

  • The region’s two school districts
    became poorer over this period, and
    the degree of income segregation
    worsened.
    The number of low-income
    students in the Miami region grew 33
    percent between 1993 and 2001. By
    2001, 51 percent of the region’s total
    elementary students were eligible for
    free lunches, up from 47 percent in
    1993. Poor students were also more
    likely to attend school with other poor
    students at the end of the period. The
    share of students who would have had
    to change schools to achieve an identical
    mix of poor and non-poor students
    in each building edged up two percentage
    points, to 51 percent.

  • As the region’s schools became more
    diverse, racial segregation eased
    slightly but remained severe.
    Miami-area
    students became a more diverse group between 1993 and 2001. Hispanic
    enrollment grew by 57 percent
    and black enrollment grew by 17 percent,
    while white enrollment decreased
    by 10 percent. Growth patterns contributed
    to lingering segregation.
    Approximately two-thirds of the growth
    in Hispanic enrollment was in Miami-Dade County schools, while nearly all
    of the growth in black enrollment took
    place in Broward County. The number
    of white students held steady in
    Broward and declined 29 percent in
    Miami-Dade.

  • The region’s most dramatic social
    changes are taking place in the suburbs.

    While still at alarming levels,
    poverty and segregation rates in the
    central city are stabilizing. The most
    dramatic social changes are taking place
    in inner suburban communities, which
    often must address growing need with
    dwindling fiscal resources.

The concentration of poor and minority
students in a particular school can fuel
the flight of middle-class families from the
surrounding neighborhood. These changes
contribute to a vicious cycle of sprawl and
disinvestment from existing communities.
To help reverse some of these patterns,
state and local leaders should explore
reforms in land use, taxes, and regional
governance.

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