Gary Orfield’s Fraudulent Research on School Segregation

By Ian Jobling • 5/16/08

Gary Orfield, director of The Civil Rights Project at UCLA, is America’s leading authority on racial segregation in schools. His research, which claims that segregation is increasing, has been cited uncritically in a thousand and one newspaper articles. However, Orfield is a fraud. His thesis is based on a statistical mistake so obvious that he cannot possibly plead ignorance.

Orfield has been churning out reports like this one for years arguing that schools have become increasingly segregated since the 1990s. To prove his claim, Orfield examines percentages of minorities who are attending majority non-white public schools. In 1992, 66 percent of black students attended schools that were at least 50 percent non-white, whereas in 2004, 73 percent did; in 1992, 73 percent of Hispanics attended majority non-white schools, but by 2004, the number was 77 percent (pp. 10-11 of the report I linked to). Both blacks and Hispanics are, consequently, now less likely to encounter whites at school than they were in 1992. So, Orfield concludes, the schools are resegregating. Obvious, right?

Wrong! As Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom point out in No Excuses, their book about race and education, Orfield ignores the fact that the percentage of students in public schools who are white is declining rapidly. In 1992, whites made up about 67 percent of public school students, but in 2004 they made up 58 percent, as the Orfield report I linked to will tell you (p. 8). As the number of non-white students declines, the number of majority non-white schools is obviously going to increase, so it becomes ever more likely that blacks and Hispanics will attend one.

Here’s decisive proof that Orfield is a fraud: he tells you the percentages of blacks, Hispanics, and Indians who are attending majority non-white schools, but he never tells you the percentage of white students who are. I’m sure that number is skyrocketing, but Orfield sweeps it under the carpet because it would prove his thesis about increasing segregation is complete nonsense.

Since I’m in favor of racial segregation, I wish Orfield were right. I wish that American whites had the spirit to resist racial integration to the extent that Orfield believes they do. However, they clearly don’t. In fact, since the white percentage of school students declined by nine percent in the 1992-2004 period, and the percentage of blacks and Hispanics attending majority non-white schools declined by an average of only six percent, it would seem that schools are becoming slightly more integrated.

Granted, whites seem to feel little enthusiasm for sending their kids to be educated with the Crips and the Latin Kings. The pace of integration is sluggish, even glacial. But it seems integration is increasing nevertheless, and no good will come of clinging to the obfuscations of dishonest academics.

Why does Orfield churn out his obscurantist nonsense year after year? As the end of the report makes clear, he wants to return to the golden age of busing, when courts forced students throughout the land to travel from one end of the city to the other to assure that they endured as much racial misery as possible. Liberals like him never let the facts get in the way of their zeal to cause whites as much suffering as possible.