Black students in racially segregated schools more likely to have alcohol and behavioral problems

Black students who attend racially segregated schools are more likely to drink alcohol and have other behavioral problems than their peers, according to a new UCSF study.

The findings offer some of the first evidence that the de facto segregation in schools, largely tied to neighborhood demographics and common across the Bay Area, leads to significant health and other issues for Black students, and especially Black girls.

“What surprises people is that school segregation is not a thing of the past,” said Dr. Rita Hamad, UCSF social epidemiologist and senior author of the study. “I think this is a public health and education policy issue we need to pay attention to now.”

The research, published this week in the journal Pediatrics, looked at data on 1,248 school-age Black children across the country from 1991-2014 who attended school in a district that in 1991 had been under court-ordered desegregation. They compared student health information with the level of segregation in their school districts.

The more segregated that schools were in a given school district, the greater the likelihood Black children had behavioral issues or were consuming alcohol, the researchers found. They tied the inequity in part to issues like higher teacher turnover, comparatively lower funding and other factors found to afflict segregated schools.