Residential Segregation and Educational Equity in Suburban Detroit
Margaret Lawler ’20
Department of Sociology
Advisors: Professor Javier Trevino and Professor Kate Mason
Segregation and educational equity are still large issues in America, specifically in the suburbs of Detroit. Being from the Detroit Area I have been able to see how segregation has been perpetuated in neighborhoods and schools throughout my life. From literature it is clear that choices and structures combine to create residential segregation which in turn creates educational segregation and educational inequity. Many studies have shown how the history of redlining and racist real estate practices have created de facto segregation in the north, however, there is less research on how choices have intertwined with these practices to further segregation. This study looks at two neighboring suburbs of Detroit that are heavily segregated. “Greenville” is a middle to upper-class white suburb that is 89% White. In contrast, neighboring “Fairview” is a middle class black suburb that is 70% black. Through analysis of 11 in-depth interviews with residents of these two suburbs, this study discovers how individual acts of prejudice work together to maintain the structures of residential segregation in the suburbs of Detroit. Additionally, this residential segregation perpetuates educational segregation and inequity between these two towns. Residents of Fairview felt discrimination and racial bias coming from residents of Greenville, keeping the two towns separated. Although the structures of racial prejudice and history of racial segregation in education and in neighborhoods created this segregation to begin with, it is the actions of individuals that maintain these inequalities. No singular action of prejudice from a resident of Greenville is going to maintain this structure, but collectively, when these individuals bring together all of their small actions, it works to maintain the structure of segregation, by keeping residents of Fairview from wanting to interact with those in Greenville, and keeping Greenville residents content with their lack of interaction with those in Fairview. Additionally, inequalities within the schools in each town create differing academic opportunities for residents of each of the two towns. In Greenville, students with learning disabilities often struggle socially and academically. They often feel lost in the loose structure of Greenville schools. In Fairview, students who were not able to test into the magnet type school got a much lower quality and lower funded education than those who were at the magnet school. Overall, the residential segregation between Fairview and Greenville does create educational inequities. Although the Greenville schools are not perfect for every kid, they are more likely to provide a quality education that prepares students for college than the Fairview schools. The only way to get that level of education in Fairview is by having the ability to test into College Prep Academy.