Ethnic segregation in secondary schooling: Why is it so persistent?

Between-School Ability Tracking and Ethnic Segregation in Secondary Schooling


Social Forces 98(1): 119-146


Between-school ability tracking—the assignment of students to different school types based on their prior achievement—is usually associated with increased ethnic segregation across schools. This article argues that stronger between-school ability tracking is not only associated with stronger ethnic sorting into school types, thus increasing segregation. At the same time, it hampers majority flight, majority members’ avoidance of exposure to minority members, thus decreasing segregation. To identify the two-fold effect of tracking the article exploits a unique feature of the German secondary school system: regional variation in the strength of between-school ability tracking. Analyses rely on administrative data entailing geocoded information on all secondary schools in Germany in 2008/2009. Results corroborate expectations of a two-fold effect: there is indication that between-school ability tracking increases segregation via more sorting into tracks while at the same time decreasing it via less school sorting within each track and via less spatial sorting. This suggests that school reforms changing tracked school systems into more comprehensive school systems may have a weaker desegregating impact than expected.

Learning together or apart? Ethnic segregation in lower secondary schools

2018, with F. Kalter

Proceedings of the British Academy. Vol. 215.

Whether, or to what degree, minority students are able to learn together with majority peers in schools is among the important context factors for their integration paths. In this chapter we investigate the extent of ethnic segregation in lower secondary schools in the four CILS4EU countries. We demonstrate that there are vast differences in majority exposure at school, both across the four countries as well as across ethnic groups within each country. Further analyses suggest that these group differences may be due to at least three reasons: ethnic differences in residential segregation, in the allocation across different ability tracks as well as ethnically specific school choice preferences. Finally, we show that low levels of majority exposure at school may not always come with a disadvantaged learning environment: in Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden schools with low majority shares tend to hold fewer learning-related resources; the opposite seems to apply for schools in England.