Title

THE IMPACT OF VOLUNTARY BUSING ON THE DESEGREGATION EXPERIENCES OF MINORITY STUDENTS IN FIVE CONNECTICUT SUBURBAN COMMUNITIES

Date of Completion

January 1986

Keywords

Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

The school desegregation literature neglects several issues. First, few studies explore the adolescent subculture of minority students in desegregated schools. Second, it is well-known that desegregated schools are not integrated environments. Yet, the question why some schools foster more positive desegregation experiences than others remains largely unanswered. Finally, theoretical questions are often slighted.^ The desegregation literature generally assumes that busing to white suburban schools facilitates the assimilation of minority students into white society because they receive an education that will foster this goal. This approach, "the consensus/assimilationist perspective," is dominant in the literature, but its validity has never adequately been tested. The "conflict/pluralist perspective," is an alternative, that is seldom encountered in the literature. It questions whether assimilation is possible given overall societal inequality. Exploring the desegregation experiences of minority students, this dissertation will provide a test of these two competing perspectives.^ A study of students participating in a voluntary desegregation program, Project Concern, examines these issues. Data were collected in three ways: (1) nonparticipant observation at five schools; (2) structured interviews with sixty-nine Project Concern students and; (3) analysis of Census data to identify community and school district characteristics. This approach differs from other desegregation studies because it combines qualitative and quantitative techniques. A design of this type will develop a picture of black high school student subculture, that reveals the coping strategies used by minority students in five white high schools. Quantitatively, the dissertation relies on structural variables to explain the desegregation experiences of Project Concern students. Causal modeling (LISREL IV) tests both a "consensus/assimilationist" and a "conflict/pluralist" model of school desegregation. The findings show that desegregation has different effects for students attending school in less advantaged communities than for those in more privileged ones. Project Concern students bused to less affluent communities report more positive desegregation experiences than do students bused to wealthier communities. This finding contradicts fundamental assumptions of the consensus/assimilationist approach and supports a conflict/pluralist model. ^