Segregation has always been one of the most vital social issues in the USA. Economic segregation implies differentiation of people based on their material welfare. It can be noticed in all spheres of human life, for example, in workplaces, schools, during the arrangement of accommodation, and so on. Compared to social and racial segregation, economic segregation seems to be less painful for the society. However, it is still a social problem, and the necessity to solve it cannot be denied. Economic segregation can affect people of any race and age. Education is one of the spheres where economic segregation is especially noticeable. Many schools in the USA display the signs of segregation, and in some of them segregation has become a serious problem. For this reason, the research question of current paper can be formulated as follows: why modern American schools are characterized by economic segregation? The principal hypothesis is that economic segregation is the result of economic instability and inequality of opportunities. The rich seem to have more opportunities in many spheres, and education in not an exception. The data for the paper was collected with the help of a monitoring method as well as the method of synthesis and analysis of the previously conducted research on this topic. Both online and library scholarly sources were used.

Historical Background

Economic segregation in the USA is not a new phenomenon. It has a long history that dates back to the 1950s and 1960s. At that time, economic segregation was closely related to the racial one. In the late 1960s and 19070s, economic segregation between the white, black, and the Hispanics started aggravating. The signs of economic segregation were most noticeable in metropolitan areas of the country. Economic segregation was usually accompanied by social distancing and structural transformation in the economic system of the USA. Economic segregation at schools has numerous implications for urban policy, poverty policy, and efficiency of the educational system. Supposedly, economic segregation originated from the excessive reliance of schools on the finances provided by local governments rather than the state. As a result, schools in poorer neighborhoods could not match the general standards of education, and their students became separated from those whose higher-income parents could afford sending them to wealthier schools.

Historically, economic state has always been the key path to peer effects among school-age children. Starting from the late 1970s, the gap in educational success of low-income and high-income students has grown. Low socioeconomic status was the reason for some children not to have an opportunity to receive sufficient education at schools that were supposed to be oriented on high-income children only. In more than 80 cities, such as New York City, Chicago, and others, schools used students’ socioeconomic status as the basis for their enrollment. Sometimes, low-income children received certain privileges, such as subsidized lunch. However, in the majority of cases, economic segregation seems to be rather traumatic for the students. Starting from 1990, the segregation rate at schools rose by 20%. The amount of family income became one of the factors to be considered when enrolling children to school. In the time period between 1991 and 2010, the segregation by subsidized lunch eligibility status grew by 30% in all schools in more than 100 residential neighborhoods throughout the country. In 2010, for instance, an average student who was eligible for free lunch went to school where 60% of children were also eligible for free lunch. In 1991, this number amounted to 50%. Even though school districts became more homogeneous compared to the 1970s and 1980s, the diversity of students remains varied. In metropolitan areas, the population’s income has risen, and public school families have relatively similar amount of income. However, children still feel the influence of segregation. Upper-middle class students and students from wealthy families are still trying to distance themselves from the rest of their classmates. An interesting fact is that low-income children, on the contrary, display a strong tendency towards integration. They often integrate with children from poor and lower middle-class families.

Starting from 2007, socioeconomic-based school assignment plans (SBSA) were introduced. They were intended to monitor the socioeconomic status of the students and register all cases of economic segregation at schools. In New York, for example, the integration of school is currently one of the primary concerns of the educational system, and some steps towards it have already been successfully taken.



The materials for the current research were collected from library and internet resources. The literature reviewed belongs to various time periods. For example, to collect the data about historical origins and development of economic segregation, relatively old sources had to be used in order to receive first-hand information. These sources date back to the 1990s and 1980s. For example, the article Take the Money and Run: Economic Segregation in U.S. Metropolitan Areas by Paul Jargowsky published in 1996 proved to be extremely helpful. For the research of the present state of the economic segregation problem at American schools, modern online sources have been used. These include online scholarly journal articles, statistical reviews, and news reports. For example, the article The Wealthy are Walling Themselves Off in Cities Increasingly Segregated by Class by Emily Badger published in the online newspaper Washington Post provides a lot of useful information about the current state of the problem in question.

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The methods of synthesis, analysis, and critical reading were used to process the information. A qualitative summary and evaluation methods were also used to analyze the literature and draw relevant conclusions from the findings of previous studies on the topic of economic segregation. Sometimes the elements of quantitative analysis were used in order to form a clear idea about the frequency of cases of segregation at the US schools. Personal experience also played a role in conducting the research. Being a student allows to observe the situation at school from the inside and evaluate the information in the context of everyday life. Participant observation proved to be a rather effective method since it allowed receiving credible data that did not need additional checking and can be used in the research to the full extent.


Currently, economic segregation at schools is also an important issue. According to some researchers, it is still growing. The main reason for this is the ever-increasing distinction between the rich and the poor that results from the inequality of social and professional opportunities. Economically prosperous cities and neighborhoods, such as Beverly Hills, Palm Beach, Newport, Grosse Pointe, East Hampton and others, become opposed to the poor neighborhoods. Correspondingly, the rich open their own private schools which the poor rarely have access to. Other schools, on the contrary, are suffering from the shortage of financing. They are supposed to have low prestige and be used mostly by the poor. Even in the places with diverse population, such as Boston, San Francisco, and New York, many schools are economically marked as wealthy or poor. The data collected from various sources shows that economic segregation at schools is closely related to economic segregation of neighborhoods and cities. Poor neighborhoods spend less on education. Consequently, the schools in such places are often low-funded.

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Economic segregation creates numerous disadvantages for the children. Low-income children feel uncomfortable with their wealthier classmates. They can become too concerned about their material welfare and try to compete in its display with their classmates. As a result, their grades are likely to become worse. The scholars agree that economic segregation prevents low-income children from revealing their talents. Excessive exposure of students to inequality in various educational contexts can also lead to negative consequences in the future.

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Judging from the above-mentioned information, it is necessary to note that economic segregation is a vital social issue in the USA. Of all the types of segregation, economic segregation seems to be the hardest to eliminate. Racial and gender segregation have been successfully dealt with in the course of history. However, economic segregation is the result of multiple economic and social factors, and it is not easy to overlook the socioeconomic status of people. Economic segregation is not a localized phenomenon. It is present in the majority of cities and districts within the country. Schools in big wealthy cities, such as New York, seem to have a stronger tendency towards economic segregation than suburb schools.

Though the difference in income among the students cannot be completely masked, it is absolutely necessary to reduce the negative impact of economic segregation on school children. Equal educational opportunities should be provided for all children, regardless their income. As this research has shown, some measures to reduce economic segregation have already been taken. However, this issue still requires much consideration and has to be completely solved. Alternative programs of economic integration have to be developed.

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