How Demographic Changes and Policy Shifts Relate to Trends in Academic Disparities
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Policymakers have increasingly turned their attention towards understanding both the patterns and mechanisms that might be driving increasing socioeconomic and racial and ethnic inequality. Notably, schools and school resource distribution act primarily at the local level, so local policies and residential changes are major factors in understanding trends in educational outcomes. At the state and national levels, demographic and policy shifts may exacerbate or mitigate educational disparities. This makes it critical to understand how recent trends in demographics and policy shifts might relate to trends in educational opportunity, particularly for less-advantaged groups.
This panel brings together four papers that examine the relationship between trends in educational disparities and demographic and policy shifts in the U.S. at different levels. Importantly, these papers investigate trends at the national, state, district, and even neighborhood level to better understand factors influencing educational disparities and the distribution of educational opportunity.
The first paper uses NAEP data and national datasets to describe how growth in academic achievement gaps at the state and national levels are related to segregation, Common Core policy changes, and other factors. The second paper uses SEDA data linked to CCD, CRDC, ACS, and other datasets to examine how district-level trends in achievement gaps are related to shifting demographics, policies, and local characteristics in the post-recession period (2009-2016). This leads to the third paper, which illuminates the variation in the relationships between neighborhood and school demographic changes and trends in inequality using data from L.A. County, NCES, CoreLogic, and the ACS. This study shows how these national trends work in a dense, diverse urban area, capturing some of the mechanisms through which the variation in the relationships between neighborhood and school changes arises. Leaning into how heterogeneous effects of federal policy have exacerbated educational disparities, the fourth paper uses SEDA, CCD, and SAIPE to examine how Title I has, unexpectedly, benefited affluent districts over low-income districts and, similarly, how Title I has benefited white and Asian students over black and Hispanic students. This speaks to how national policies affect trends in disparities at a national level.
Together, these papers tell a compelling story about the relationship between demographic and policy shifts and trends in education disparities. We describe how changes over time in economic and racial and ethnic disparities at the national, state, and district levels relate to changes in policy as well as segregation and inequality at each of those levels. We then dive into the mechanisms to explain how these relationships play out across neighborhoods and schools. Finally, our panel speaks to how the federal policy of Title I has exacerbated achievement disparities across demographic groups, illustrating with this specific important example how the relationship between segregation, inequality, and trends in achievement disparities plays out over time.