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The Suburban Promise of Brown
Dr. Ready, an Associate Professor of Education and Public Policy, researches the links between education policy, social policy, and educational equity. Much of this research focuses on how contemporary policies moderate or exacerbate socio-demographic disparities in cognitive development. Representative work has appeared in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Educational Policy, Sociology of Education, American Educational Research Journal, American Journal of Education, Teachers College Record, Research in Higher Education, Early Childhood Research Quarterly,Early Education and Development, as well as in books and edited volumes published by the Brookings Institution, Teachers College Press, and the American Educational Research Association.
The Price of Exclusion: Residential Home Prices and School District Racial/Ethnic Composition in Nassau County, New York
Decades of research confirms the influence of school racial/ethnic composition on student social and academic outcomes. But school and district demographic profiles also impact less tangible outcomes, such as public perceptions regarding status, quality and desirability. One obvious way to estimate the value of educational spaces is through the prices homebuyers are willing to pay to live in particular school districts. The focus of these analyses is Nassau County, New York, which is arguably the ideal context in the nation in which to conduct just such an investigation. As recently as 1970, Nassau County was 95% white. Today, fewer than 2 of 3 residents are white. This growth in non-white residents occurred quite unevenly across communities, and today both residential and school segregation are two to three times more severe than national averages. An additional characteristic unique to Nassau is its severe school district fragmentation, with 55 school districts serving fewer than 200,000 students. This segregation and severe fragmentation seriously impact Nassau’s housing market, which in turn has obvious implications for resource inequalities across communities.
In 2010, the average home sales price in Nassau County school districts with African-American/Hispanic enrollments below 10% was almost $680,000; in districts with African-American/Hispanic enrollments above 50% it was roughly $357,000. But these simple descriptive differences, although quite stark, are potentially misleading, given that district racial/ethnic composition is associated with a host of other characteristics, including academic performance, fiscal and human resources, and curricular and programmatic offerings, all of which families understandably value. Moreover, since “better schools” tend to be located in “better neighborhoods,” unmeasured neighborhood characteristics may overstate the effects of school district characteristics on home prices. To address these concerns, the analyses presented here employ a “boundary fixed-effect” approach, which utilizes Geographic Information System (GIS) software to spatially identify homes in close proximity to school attendance boundaries. Analyses are then restricted to sets of homes that are directly on either side of the same school district boundary (0.15 miles), with the assumption that such homes are comparable in terms of neighborhood characteristics, but differ in terms of school district characteristics. The models also control for a wide array of home and neighborhood characteristics, as well as other school district demographic and academic attributes.
Results using this robust technique and data from 2010 suggest that the strongest (statistically adjusted) predictor of price was home size, followed by the County Assessor’s “grade” of the property. But the third strongest predictor of home sales price was school district racial/ethnic composition, even when comparing only homes that straddled the same school district boundary. Specifically, a one-percent increase in black/Hispanic school district enrollment was associated with a 0.3% decrease in home values. Put another way, almost $50,000 in price would separate two otherwise similar homes, one located in a district that is 30% black/Hispanic, and other located in a district with 70% black/Hispanic enrollments (given Nassau County’s 2010 median home price of $415,000).