Josh Gagne, Doctoral Student in the Department of Sociology, Stanford University
Racial segregation between classrooms within a school has been largely understood in the context of sorting policies like in-school ability tracking, but classrooms can also become segregated within non-sorting schools. I offer a theoretical model of emergent classroom segregation that explains how racial segregation can emerge in non-sorting schools from a combination of race-neutral practices, arbitrary student assignment, and competitions for classroom placements among parents and among teachers. I apply the model to the case of racial segregation in Brazil using linked student, teacher, and principal surveys sent to the full fifth grade public school population in 2011. I find that 41 percent of the racial composition differences between classrooms nationwide occur within schools, more than the differences between schools within municipalities or the differences between municipalities. This is driven at least as much by non-sorting as by sorting schools. Among non-sorting schools, classroom segregation occurs in a pattern consistent with having been induced primarily by chance and exacerbated by parent and teacher competitions for classroom placements. Color-conscious interventions are necessary to avoid unintended consequences in racially stratified societies.