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School Diversity

After the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, integrating public schools became a nationwide objective. However, New York City public schools remain some of the most segregated in the country.

In New York City public schools, 74.6% of black and Hispanic students attend a school with less than 10% white students. Additionally, 34.3% of white students attend a school with more than 50% white students.

Making sure our city’s schools reflect the diversity of its residents is a top priority.

On May 1, 2019, the Committee on Education and the Committee on Civil and Human Rights held a joint hearing on Segregation in NYC Schools. At this hearing the Department of Education (DOE), and more than 100 community members, and activists testified on the issue of diversity in New York City public schools.

The committees also heard a package of legislation designed to gather more information about school diversity and address segregation at all levels of NYC’s school system. Five bills became law in the fall of 2019. More details can be found below.

Diversity at NYC Schools

2018-2019 School Year
Percentage Hispanic Students: 41%
Percentage Black Students: 26%
Percentage Asian Students: 16%
Percentage White Students: 15%
Percentage Multiple Ethnicity Students: 3%

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Citywide Overview

2018-2019 School Year

Race and Ethnicity

The majority of New York City public school students are black or Hispanic, according to the DOE.

It’s important to note that 32.1% of New York City’s population identifies as white and non-Hispanic, while only 15% of public school students are identified as white by the DOE.

Race, Ethnicity, and Poverty

Poverty is another factor worth considering when talking about school diversity.

Black and Hispanic students are much more likely to attend a school where more than 75% of students experience poverty.

Poverty, Language, Disability, and Housing

2018-2019 School Year

Diversity at NYC Schools

72.8% of students experience poverty
Citywide Economic Need Index is 70%

ELL Students
13.2% of of students in New York City are ELL
22.2% of schools have a population of more than 20% ELL students

Students With Disabilities
20.2% of students in New York City are students with disabilities.
5.64% of schools have a population that is less than 10% students with disabilities.

Students in temporary housing 2017-2018
29.2% of schools have a population of more than 15% of students in temporary housing.
4.63% of schools do not have any students in temporary housing.

Specialized High School Diversity

Specialized high schools have been an important part of the conversation around school diversity and integration in New York City.

This graphic shows the racial demographics of the eight test based specialized high schools.

LaGuardia High School is not shown here as it has auditions based admissions.

Severe discrepancies exist for those given access to the highest level of academic achievement the New York City Department of Education has to offer.

Total Diversity of Specialized High Schools

Each specialized high school has different demographic characteristics, with some being more diverse than others.

However, the specialized high schools as a whole remain unrepresentative of New York City’s total student population.

This graph shows the total racial demographics of the 8 specialized high schools that use the SHSAT for admissions.

Poverty in Specialized High Schools

Students at the specialized high schools are less likely to be in poverty than students city wide.

While 74% of students city wide experience poverty, fewer than 50% of students at specialized high schools experience poverty.


The legislative package included five separate bills that together seek to understand and bring diversity to NYC Schools.

The legislative package includes bills that:

  • Create a specialized high school task force that would be charged with addressing the racial/ethnic student body inequities of the eight test-based specialized high schools. Read Local Law 208 of 2019
  • Require the Department of Education to expand its current student demographic data reporting to the grade level to provide more granular data. Read Local Law 223 of 2019
  • Codify the mayoral school diversity advisory group. Read Local Law 224 of 2019
  • Mandate the establishment of district diversity working groups in each community school district. Read Local Law 225 of 2019
  • Require the Department of Education to report on the diversity demographics of school staff in New York city schools. Read Local Law 226 of 2019

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Created by the NYC City Council Data Team.

Data Sources