One of the more controversial initiatives enacted by the Obama administration is the effort now underway to aggressively reduce segregation in residential neighborhoods across the country. Officials at the Department of Housing and Urban Development are collecting and sharing extensive amounts of data with local officials to devise policies to better integrate communities. Localities that do not cooperate are being coerced in various ways, including the withholding of federal funds.
Administration officials claim that the initiative is merely an extension of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, while Republicans in Congress argue it is ill-conceived social engineering and an illegal use of executive power. Whether one supports the initiative or not, two things are certain: research shows that integration does foster better socioeconomic outcomes and the administration is ignoring the main driver of segregation — mass immigration.
Consider the case of public schools. An article from the winter 2015 issue of International Migration Review finds that the average test scores in both reading and math for first- and second-generation youth declined significantly from 1990 to 2002. In that time, children from immigrant families grew from 13 to 20 percent of all public school students and the immigrant population became less diverse due to the dramatic increase of Hispanic newcomers.