From the Field

The Long Run Impacts of Mexican-American School Desegregation

School segregation has had a long history in the United States, not only for Black but for Mexican-American children. A recent research paper published in the National Bureau of Economic Research from researchers at the University of Colorado and Texas A&M highlights the positive impact on long-run educational attainment after a 1947 federal court ruling prohibited segregating Mexican-American students.

The authors used U.S. Census data from 1980, 1990, and 2000 to identify Hispanic and non-Hispanic, White individuals who were born and lived in California between 1921 and 1945. This data was further divided into two categories: high and low likelihood of segregation.

The results from the analysis indicated that White students had higher educational attainment than Mexican Americans in both the segregated and non-segregated counties. The researchers found desegregation significantly improved the educational attainment of Mexican Americans, with some evidence of partial benefits for students already in school at the time of the appeals court decision, Mendez v. Westminster. There were much larger benefits for students who began school after the Mendez decision.  Overall, desegregation increased the time spent in education for Hispanics by nearly a year.

This work made a significant contribution to the literature by pinning down the mechanism underlying the link between desegregation and greater equity in education, making it a very important area for future research.

-Gunjan Masheshwari

Photo courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.