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Residential Segregation and the Black-White College Gap
FRB of St. Louis
2023.11.29
Economic research shows that the neighborhood a child grows up in profoundly impacts a range of adult outcomes, including college attainment, employment, and intergenerational mobility. In the case of St. Louis, economist Raj Chetty and other researchers documented a Black-white gap in college attainment of 28 percentage points in their dataset; specifically, for children who grow up in the St. Louis commuting zone, 47% of white children will earn a college degree, while only 19% of Black children will.

At the same time, de facto residential segregation by race is a predominant feature of many American cities, and as a result, there is substantial racial inequality in exposure to advantageous neighborhoods [e.g., Patrick Bayer, Kerwin Kofi Charles and JoonYup Park’s 2021 article (PDF)]. According to a measure of neighborhood segregation-the dissimilarity index-the St. Louis commuting zone ranks as the seventh most segregated in the country. A recent St. Louis Fed working paper by Victoria Gregory, Julian Kozlowski and Hannah Rubinton explores whether ongoing racial differences in neighborhood sorting can account for the Black-white gap in college attainment and residential segregation even after the end of de jure segregation.