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The Economic Burden of Racism from the U.S. Education System

Even as the U.S. education system becomes more ethnically and racially diverse, many racial disparities persist with regard to school segregation, educational resources, and ultimately educational outcomes. These disparities harm students individually and have significant societal impacts as well, including economic consequences. Educational resources are misallocated in ways that may reflect racial discrimination. Black and Hispanic students often leave school with substantially lower levels of human capital and, as a result, have lower lifetime earnings on average. Together, these misallocations and losses in human capital are what this brief calls the “economic burden of racism.” In estimating the main economic burdens of racial disparities, this brief attempts to include all the resources that are affected by racism, measured in dollars. The brief’s conservative estimates point to the need for more complete and precise data; thus, the brief concludes with recommendations regarding policymaker-funded research.