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An Empirical Analysis of Racial Segregation in Higher Education


This descriptive paper documents how segregation between blacks and whites across colleges in the United States has evolved since the 1960s. It also explores potential channels through which changes are occurring, and it uses recent data to study the issue of segregation within colleges. The main findings are as follows:

  1. White exposure to blacks has been rising since the 1960s, whereas black exposure to whites increased sharply in the late 1960s and early 1970s and has fluctuated since then. Meanwhile, black-white dissimilarity and the Theil index fell sharply in the late 1960s and early 1970s and have fallen more gradually since.
  2. There has been regional convergence, although colleges in the South remain more segregated than those in any other region when measured by dissimilarity, by the Theil index, or by black exposure to whites.
  3. A major channel for the decline in segregation is the declining share of blacks attending historically black colleges and universities.
  4. Although there is segregation within universities, most segregation across major × university cells occurs across universities.

Keywords: segregation, higher education.

JEL Classification: I23, I24, I28, J15.


Suggested citation: Hinrichs, Peter, 2014. “An Empirical Analysis of Racial Segregation in Higher Education,” Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Working Paper, no 14-35.

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