The Rapid Growth and Changing Complexion of Suburban Public Schools

The Rapid Growth and Changing Complexion of Suburban Public Schools

The student population of America's suburban public schools has shot up by 3.4 million in the past decade and a half, and virtually all of this increase (99%) has been due to the enrollment of new Latino, black and Asian students, according to an analysis of public school data by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center. Once a largely white enclave, suburban school districts in 2006-07 educated a student population that was 41.4% non-white, up from 28% in 1993-94 and not much different from the 43.7% non-white share of the nation's overall public school student population. At the same time, suburban school districts have been gaining "market share"; they educated 38% of the nation's public school students in 2006-07, up from 35% in 1993-94.

Despite the sharp rise in the racial and ethnic diversity of suburban district enrollments overall, there has been only a modest increase in the racial and ethnic diversity of student populations at the level of the individual suburban school.  For example, in 2006-07, the typical white suburban student attended a school whose student body was 75% white; in 1993-94, this same figure had been 83%. So at a time when the white share of student enrollment in suburban school districts was falling by 13 percentage points (from 72% in 1993-94 to 59% in 2006-07), the exposure of the typical white suburban student to minority students in his or her own school was growing by a little more than half that much-or 8 percentage points.

When it comes to increases in public school student enrollment, the suburbs are where most of the action has been over the past decade and a half. In 1993-94, city school districts educated a majority of the nation's minority students. That is no longer the case. The movement out of city schools has nearly exclusively been suburban school districts' gain.

The movement of minority students into suburban schools has had the overall effect of slightly reducing levels of ethnic and racial segregation throughout the nation's 93,430 public schools.  Minority students on average are less segregated in suburban school districts compared with city school districts, so the shift toward suburban school districts tends to reduce national segregation levels.

Read the full report Sharp Growth in Suburban Minority Enrollment Yields Modest Gains in School Diversity on the Pew Hispanic Center's Web site.