Sixty years ago this weekend, the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education found state laws imposing segregation in schools unconstitutional. Progress has been made, but the nation has been slipping, according to a new report by UCLA's Civil Rights Project. And the states where segregation is most prevalent today are not the ones where it reached its boiling point in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Northeast is the only region where, on average, the share of black students in almost completely minority schools has risen since 1968, according to the report titled "Brown at 60: Great Progress, a Long Retreat and an Uncertain Future." More than half — 51.4 percent — of black students in those states in 2011 were in schools whose student populations were 90 percent to 100 percent minorities.
In New York, for instance, 64.6 percent of black students attend schools that are at least 90 percent minority. Illinois is second (61.3%), followed by Maryland (53.1%), Michigan (50.4%), New Jersey (48.5%) and Pennsylvania (46%).
West Virginia is the most integrated state across the board. The share of black students in majority-white schools is incredibly high — 92.6 percent. No black students attend schools where the minority population is above 90 percent and exposure of black students to white students is the highest in the nation.
The South had a long way to go. Even nine years after the Brown decision, 99 percent of blacks in the South were still in all-black schools. But in 1968, the Supreme Court ruled that states where segregation was worst had to desegregate completely and quickly. By 1970, Southern schools were the nation's most integrated.
Judicial and demographic changes have taken hold in the intervening years, of course, and other trends work against efforts to better integrate schools. Residential segregation is higher among school-aged children than the broader population, for example.
Critics also argue that a string of Supreme Court decisions in recent decades has unwound protections against segregation. A recent Stanford study found that a series of rulings in the 1990s removing judicial oversight from school districts has allowed schools to re-segregate.
Today, a typical white student is likely to attend a school where about three in four students is also white. That means that an average white student looking around a typical 30-person classroom in her school will see 22 other white students, four Latinos, two blacks, an Asian and one more who would qualify under an "other" racial category.
A typical black student today would see 15 blacks, eight whites, five Latinos, one Asian and one student of another racial category.
A typical Latino student in a 30-person class would likely have 17 Latino classmates, eight white ones, three black and one Asian and one other.
An Asian student is likely to have 12 white classmates, seven Asian ones, seven Latino ones, three black ones and an other.