The belief that public schools produce better integration than private schools is deeply held by many people, but unfortunately, it is supported by little empirical evidence. A systematic look at integration is undertaken through a random sample of public and private schools in two cities. A total of 4302 students were observed, 2864 from public schools, and 1438 from private schools. Unlike previous studies of integration in schools, data are drawn from a setting in which racial mixing has greater meaning: the lunchroom. Also developed are new measures of integration that allow for easier, more meaningful comparisons between different school systems. Analyses suggest that private schools tend to offer a more racially integrated environment than do public schools. The primary explanation for private schools' success at integration is that private school attendance is not as closely attached to where a person lives as attendance at public schools. Public schools tend to replicate and reinforce racial segregation in housing. Because private schools do not require that their students live in particular neighborhoods, they can more easily overcome segregation in housing to provide integration in school. The strong religious mission and higher social class found in most private schools are also factors that contribute to better racial integration. Contains 7 tables of data, 6 notes, and 19 references. (Author/BT)
Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (Boston, MA, September 3-6, 1998).