Data: Race and Ethnicity in U.S. Schools Today

In the six decades since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the racial and ethnic landscape of the United States has evolved, and the nation’s schools along with it.

The U.S. population is much less dominated by non-Hispanic whites than it was in the 1950s. By 2060, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts, the United States will become a “plurality” nation, with no one race in the majority. (Whites will still be the single largest group, with Hispanic Americans the next-largest group.)

Similarly, concepts of school diversity and integration are shifting. While the percentage of white children in public schools has declined in recent years (from 61 percent to 56 percent from school year 2000-01 to 2007-08), and the percentage of black children in the schools has held steady (at 17 percent), the percentage of Hispanic students has increased from 17 percent to 21 percent, and the percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander students has risen from 4 percent to 5 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Today, many of the questions concerning integration turn on what to do when schools reflect the racial makeup of their surrounding communities—communities that are largely of one race or socioeconomic level.

The U.S. Department of Education’s 2010 report “Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups” paints a detailed picture of where American children live, the conditions they find in their public schools, and their home lives. Based on data from the 2007-08 school year, the study offers widely divergent snapshots of the life experiences of children.

Charts on this page excerpt data from the 2010 report, as well as newer data the Department of Education has collected.

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Design & Visualization: Vanessa Solis

This data was compiled as part of a package of news and opinion related to the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. Read more.

A version of this article appeared in the May 14, 2014 edition of Education Week as U.S. Schools 60 Years After Brown