December 15, 2015

Amy Stuart Wells, (212) 678-4042,
Daniel J. Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

How can policy stabilize racial demographic change in cities and suburbs?

The housing-school nexus, school choice, and resegregation addressed in new policy brief

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Dec. 15, 2015) – Throughout history, a child's zip code has determined their educational opportunities, due to the tight relationship between racially segregated and unequal housing and schools. Research has revealed that racial inequality in American housing and schools is sustained by an iterative relationship between intangible and tangible factors in the housing-school choice process. According to a new brief out today, the nation may now have the ideal opportunity to address this housing-school nexus.

Professor Amy Stuart Wells, Columbia University Teachers College, in Diverse Housing, Diverse Schooling: How Policy Can Stabilize Racial Demographic Change in Cities and Suburbs, reviews social science evidence, highlighting the problem of reoccurring racial segregation and inequality absent strong, proactive integration policies. The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) published the brief with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

In the brief, Wells covers three key areas of social science research: (a) the nature of the housing-school nexus; (b) the impact of school desegregation and housing integration policies on the nexus; and (c) implicit racial biases as they relate to school and housing choices.

Wells outlines several recommendations for breaking the cycle:

  • Policymakers should embrace and capitalize on changing racial attitudes in the U.S., particularly among the younger generations, to promote and stabilize diverse communities and public schools;
  • Policymakers must consider how current accountability policies in the field of education exacerbate segregation and inequality; and
  • Local leaders and their constituents must embrace the new demographics of their communities and promote them as places forward-thinking people want to "be" and not "flee" in the suburban context.
  • Sustainable and affordable housing and school enrollment policies must also support diversity in gentrifying urban neighborhoods.

The policy brief explains why proactive measures to diversify housing and schools are so difficult to achieve and why our failure to integrate will have such dire consequences for our increasingly diverse nation and its schools. 

Find Diverse Housing, Diverse Schooling: How Policy Can Stabilize Racial Demographic Change in Cities and Suburbs on the web:

The brief can also be found on the NEPC website:

- ### -

Friend on Facebook

Follow on Twitter

The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at