School Segregation and Racial Gaps in Special Education Identification

81 Pages Posted: 13 May 2019

See all articles by Todd E. Elder

Todd E. Elder

Michigan State University

David N. Figlio

Northwestern University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Scott A. Imberman

Michigan State University; Michigan State University - College of Education

Claudia Persico

American University

Date Written: May 2019

Abstract

We use linked birth and education records from Florida to investigate how the identification of childhood disabilities varies by race and school racial composition. Using a series of decompositions, we find that black and Hispanic students are identified with disabilities at lower rates than are observationally similar white students. Black students are over-identified in schools with relatively small shares of minorities and substantially under-identified in schools with large minority shares. We find similar gradients among Hispanic students but opposite patterns among white students. We provide suggestive evidence that these findings are unlikely to stem from differential resource allocations, economic characteristics of students, or achievement differences. Instead, we argue that the results are consistent with a heightened awareness among school officials of disabilities in students who are racially and ethnically distinct from the majority race in the school.

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Suggested Citation

Elder, Todd E. and Figlio, David N. and Imberman, Scott Andrew and Persico, Claudia, School Segregation and Racial Gaps in Special Education Identification (May 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w25829. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3387185

Todd E. Elder (Contact Author)

Michigan State University ( email )

110 Marshall-Adams Hall
Department of Economics
East Lansing, MI 48824
United States
517-355-0353 (Phone)

David N. Figlio

Northwestern University ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Scott Andrew Imberman

Michigan State University ( email )

East Lansing, MI 48824
United States

Michigan State University - College of Education ( email )

East Lansing, MI
United States

Claudia Persico

American University ( email )

School of Public Affairs
Kerwin Hall, 4400 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

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