The Public Interest

A Response to “The ‘White Flight’ Controversy”

Christine H. Rossell , David J. Armor & Diane Ravitch

Fall 1978

DIANE Ravitchs article, “The ‘White Flight’ Controversy,” in the Spring issue of The Public Interest includes many misleading and inaccurate points which need to be corrected. It is also almost two years out of date. I would like to emphasize at the outset, however, that her central argument with regard to Coleman’s work is correct. Despite all of the methodological critiques, competing analyses, and reanalyses, the major argument of the Coleman, Kelly, and Moore study, “Trends in School Segregation, 1968-73,” has been substantiated empirically by the most recent works. My own updated and expanded study, “Assessing the Unintended Impacts of Public Policy: School Desegregation and Resegregation,” (now including Southern school districts and data through Fall 1975), as well as recent works by Farley, Armor, Roberts, and Cloffelter, suggests that the implementation of a school desegregation plan, if it involves the busing of whites to black schools, significantly increases the decline in white public school enrollment in the year of implementation-averaging out to be a doubling of the “normal” white enrollment decline in the North and a tripling in the South. Although Ravitch scorns the suggestion in my first study that there appear to be less-than-normal white enrollment losses in post-implementation years, Coleman and his colleagues also found the same effect. Indeed, of the four most recent studies which have examined this phenomenon longitudinally, three have found strong “positive” effects after implementation. At the end of four years, the net effect of school desegregation on white public school enrollment is “non-negative” for most school districts and most plans. If she is going to criticize me for this finding, she should be fair enough to mention Coleman’s similar finding.

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