Descriptive Title: Ethnic composition of San Francisco Unified School District students compared to total San Francisco school-aged youth population (5-19 year olds) over time

Geographic Unit of Analysis: City

Ratio of San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) enrollment (public school population)
to citywide school-aged population  (5-19 years old) by ethnicity
  1980 1990 2000 2010
  Enrolled
SFUSD
Citywide
5-19
Ratio Enrolled
SFUSD
Citywide
5-19
Ratio Enrolled
SFUSD
Citywide
5-19
Ratio Enrolled
SFUSD
Citywide
5-19
Ratio
White 17% 55% 0.309 14% 29% 0.483 10% 23% 0.435 11% 24% 0.473
Asian/PI/Filipino 42% 19% 2.211 47% 39% 1.205 52% 41% 1.268 46% 38% 1.213
Hispanic/Latino 17% 12% 1.417 20% 15% 1.333 22% 23% 0.957 24% 23% 1.053
African American 24% 11% 2.182 18% 9% 2 16% 12% 1.333 11% 8% 1.365
Other (American Indian/Alaska Native/Two or More Races/Not Stated) -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 7% 7% 1.049

Why Is This An Indicator Of Health and Sustainability?

Integrated schools aim to uphold the value of equality in the quality of educational opportunities to children regardless of ethnic or economic background. Research has shown that Black and Hispanic students who attend ethnically integrated schools have greater academic achievement than their peers in more ethnically homogenous schools, even after controlling for other school-level factors and family changes.a A 2007 study of metropolitan area schools across the US found that the achievement gap between Black and white students is much smaller in schools that have between 25% and 54% Black, Hispanic, and Native American students.a However, all students who attend integrated schools seem to benefit, and children who have attended racially diverse schools tend to complete more years of education and have higher incomes, even after controlling for a number of background characteristics.a These students also tend to live in more integrated settings and have higher levels of civic engagement later in life.a Lastly, a recent study in England found that students who attended culturally diverse schools had better mental health.b

When the ethnic composition of the school district is not similar to that of the youth population, this indicates that certain ethnic groups may be choosing to send their children to private schools, more than others, impeding efforts to ensure that school populations are reflective of San Francisco’s ethnic diversity. High levels of private school attendance or home schooling can suggest real or perceived concerns with the quality of public education. San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) has experimented with a number of different school assignment policies to promote diverse, high performing schools. Currently, SFUSD allows any student to apply to any school in the city. However, there are often situations where there are more requests for spaces at a particular school than seats available. Whenever requests are greater than the number of seats available, the SFUSD uses a Student Assignment System to guide student selection. For more information on the SFUSD Student Placement Policy visit this website: http://www.sfusd.edu/en/enroll-in-sfusd-schools/enroll-for-next-year/placement/placement-policy.html.

Interpretation and Geographic Equity Analysis

The ratio of SFUSD enrollment to all 5-19 year olds reveals the relative attendance levels in public schools. Values less than 1 indicate under-representation in the public school system compared to all 5-19 year olds of that particular ethnicity. Values greater than 1 indicate that students of the particular ethnicity are over-represented in the public school system, relative to their general population. Data from 1980-2010 reveals that generally there has been an improvement in the SFUSD student population being more ethnically representative of the citywide school-aged population. However, much of this change is due to citywide demographic shifts rather than enrollment behaviors with the greatest shifts happening between 1980-1990 and1990-2000. The table above illustrates that between 1980 and 2010 the white school-aged population fell from 55% of all school-aged youth to 24%, while Asian/Pacific Islander (API) and Hispanic school aged youth populations both increased by 10 percentage points. There was a 3 percentage point decrease in African American representation in the school-aged population during those 30 years. The greatest increase in ethnic representation in SFUSD schools occurred in Hispanic students, while African American Students experienced the most significant loss of representation. Since 1980 there has been an increase in school-aged youth in San Francisco who identify with an ethnic category other than white, API, Hispanic, or African American. This analysis shows that youth in this category are neither under or over represented in SFUSD.

It is important to note however, that ethnic representation within the district does not mean that schools are ethnically integrated. Analysis of 2010-2011 SFUSD enrollment data shows that 60% of SFUSD schools had one ethnic group that made up 50% or more of the student body and 21% of schools had one ethnic group that made up 70% or more of the student body. Of the schools that were more ethnically homogeneous, the majority were comprised of predominantly API students. 

Methods

The percents of all San Francisco 5-19 year olds and students enrolled in SFUSD schools by ethnicity were calculated for Census years 1980-2010. The ratio of SFUSD students to the citywide school-aged population was calculated by dividing the percent of SFUSD students in an ethnic category by the percent of all citywide youth in that category.

Limitations

Similar to many other urban areas, San Francisco public schools face the challenge of trying to create a high quality, integrated academic environment that compensates for existing racial, ethnic and economic segregation by neighborhood. The education-related indicators in Objective PI.2 seek to illustrate these tensions/tradeoffs by providing multiple different indicators affecting the accessibility and quality of educational facilities in San Francisco. One measure alone cannot capture the complexity of student achievement or the various push and pull factors causing children and families to leave or move to San Francisco. Therefore educational achievement and performance must be considered both within the broader context of neighborhood, social and economic conditions which are addressed in other parts of the SCI.

Some students complete school before age 19, but because of their age at the time of the census, they would be counted as unenrolled students, thereby underestimating the number of students having received public school education.

It is possible to do an analysis of racial/ethnic demographics of schools at the neighborhood level using Census data and SFUSD school specific ethnic profiles and addresses. However, because so many students attend schools outside of their own neighborhood (because of the Student Assignment System and/or because there is not a grade-appropriate school in their neighborhood), there does not appear to be much added value to calculating this indicator at a neighborhood level. Citywide measures still reflect demographic shifts. However, individuals wishing to get more specific can do so by using this web accessible data.

Data Source

Enrollment by Ethnicity for 2010-11:  DataQuest, California Department of Education, Educational Demographics Unit. Accessed on September 9, 2011 and March 9, 2012: http://data1.cde.ca.gov/dataquest

Ethnicity of San Francisco youth:  2010 US Census

Chart and graph prepared by City and County of San Francisco, Department of Public Health, Environmental Health Section.

  1. Spencer ML, Reno R, Powell JA, Grant-Thomas A. The Benefits of Racial and Economic Integration in Our Education System: Why this Matters for our Democracy. Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Ohio State University. February, 2009.
  2. Bhui K, Lenguerrand E, Maynard MJ, Stansfeld S, Harding S. 2012. Does cultural integration explain a mental health advantage for adolescents? [Epub ahead of print]. Int. J. Epidemiol. 1-12.