Racial segregation, and in particular school segregation, likely plays an important role in affecting health outcomes. To examine this connection, this paper explores the relationship between the end of court-ordered school desegregation and preterm births among Blacks using birth certificate information between 1992 and 2002 (n = 183,178). The end of court-ordered oversight has important implications for the level of racial segregation in schools: If residential segregation remains high, neighborhood-based student assignment plans would naturally increase school segregation. A rise in school segregation may lead to worse educational, labor, and health outcomes among Blacks. Using multiple difference-in-differences framework that exploits variation in exposure to schools that declared unitary status, it finds that school districts’ release from court oversight is associated with a 0.8 percentage point increase in preterm births among Black mothers. This paper contributes to literature that finds that the end of court-ordered school desegregation in the 1990s have negative implications for Blacks. More research should be conducted to understand the causal relationship between school segregation and infant health.
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