Court-ordered busing for school desegregation has greatly accelerated the loss of whites from Prince George's County public schools, according to a new report by a Rand Corp. researcher.
The study by sociologist David Armor compares the actual changes in white enrollment in Prince George's and 22 other large school districts under court desegregation orders with normal enrollment projections based on birth and migration data reported by the Census Bureau.
Overall, Armor said, the average loss of white students was about 14 percent in the first year after desegregation. It dropped to between 7 and 9.5 percent annually during the next four years, compared to an expected white loss, based on previous trends, of 3 to 4 percent a year.
In Prince George's County, the white loss in the first year after busing started in January 1973 was 9.4 percent. The loss was 5.9 percent in 1974, but has been larger each year since then, rising to 9.8 percent last year.
In the fall of 1977, Prince George's schools had 78,476 whites, 56 percent of total enrollemnt, compared to 127,296 whites, comprising 80 percent of enrollment, in 1970, just before the desegregation lawsuit was filed.
Based on births and migration trends before the court order, Armor projected that Prince George's schools would have been 72 percent white in 1977.
No enrollment data are available yet for this fall.
The study is the most recent large-scale research that has been made on the impact of court-ordered busing programs on white school enrollment and the first containing extensive data on Prince George's County.
Armor noted that Prince George's gained white students rapidly throughout the 1960s, but the slight downturn occured during the two years before the desegregation order.
"I don't think busing or any policy can actually turn a (school) district around from white growth to a white loss," Amor said in an interview. "In Prince George's it would have turned around anyway, but not as much as it did or as rapidly. There's no doubt that busing accelerates white flight."
Amor's 77-page study, entitled "White Flight, Demographic Transition, and the Future of School Desegregation," was presented Sept. 7 at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in San Francisco. The Rand Corp., where Armor works, is a privately-run "think-tank" in Santa Monica, Calif.
Previously, Armor has conducted research for the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and has been an associate professor at Harvard. In 1972 he wrote a study of busing projects in five Northern cities with reported no academic gains for the black students involved and in several cases a worsening of race relations.
Yesterday Sylvester Vaughns, the former President of the Prince George's NAACP who filed the successful desegregation lawsuit, said he agreed that the busing plan probably led to the departure of whites who "chose not to have their children attend desegregated schools."
Under the court busing order, issued by U.S. District Judge Frank Kaufman, no school in Prince George's had more than a 50 percent black enrollment. Even though school attendance zones have not been changed since then, 85 of the county's 226 schools had black majorities last fall, including 15 schools that were more than 70 percent black.
Lesley Kreimer, a member of the Prince George's school board, said busing "definitely has had an impact."
"You can see it in the communities that have busing," she said, "and the houses in those areas don't get sold to people who have school-age children. They're bought by young black couples without children or older white couples or singles."
Kreimer said housing prices, taxes, and the sewer moratorium of the early 1970s also had an important impact on where families with schoolage children live, but she said, "busing had no impact too."
"I don't think a lot of people purposely move out of the county because of busing," she continued."But when people have to move, a lot of them use their option to go elsewhere."
Real estate prices for comparable homes are considerably higher in Anne Arundel County, where there is no busing, than they are just across the border in Prince George's, she said.
In his study, Armor said the white flight phenomenon is most likely to occur in large school district such as Prince George's, where there are mandatory busing programs, a minority population exceeding 20 per cent, and nearby suburbs that are heavily white.
Gary Orfield, author of a recent desegregation study for the Brookings Institution, said he agreed with Armor that "there is an addition to white flight in the first year of desegregation, but beyond that you can't be sure."
Armor "uses simple correlations and comes up with grand conclusions." Orfield said, "but I'm sure its not that simple." Where whites go to school, he said, is determined "by an interaction of school and housing patterns and by people's preceptions."
Prince George's County has a great deal of "natural transiency not related to busing," Armor said, but he added that the busing plan probably has discouraged new white families coming to the Washington area from settling there.