Remember Busing and Its Effect on Suburban Sprawl?

Time flies whether you’re having fun or not. Forty years have gone by since the Boston riots protesting student busing ordered by the local federal court. Today’s New York Times takes a retrospective approach and informs us that with the passage of time, the Boston busing caper proved to be a disaster. See Katharine Q. Selye, 4 Decades After Clashes, Boston Again Debates School Busing, N.Y. Times, Oct 5, 2012, at p. A1 — click here.

At the time, white kids constituted some 73% of the Boston school population. Today they number around 13%. What happened? “White flight,” that’s what. The idea behind busing was that the student population should be spread among Boston schools so that black kids would go to school with their white conterparts and not be confined to old, decrepit inner city schools. But the predictable happened. Faced with having to send their kids to bad inner city schools, white parents moved out to the suburbs.

So you might think that, faced with such  tangible evidence of the failure of busing to achieve its stated goals, the Boston folks would reconsider. Nope. The Boston busing is still going on and the shrinking pool of white students is being shuffled around the increasingly minority urban schools. The largest student population is Hispanic (42%), with 8% Asian. Blacks amount to 35%, whereas when busing began, they were slightly over 20%.

So if you ever wonder why for the past half-century urban populations have been leaving older cities and moving out to the suburbs, leaving behind urban blight, reflect on these facts. Of course, busing was not the only factor that motivated the city-to-suburbd exodus, but it was a major factor because the quality of local schools is the single most important factor in a family’s choice of where to live. So next  time you read the effusions of some ideology-driven idiot going on about the joys of living in a crowded city apartment under the flag of “new urbanism,” do reflect on how it happened that so many people left cities in the past half-century, leaving behind urban blight and ruined swaths of cities that had been abandoned by their respective populations. To make our point clear: No, it wasn’t just busing. But busing, along with wretched public schools, rising crime, urban riots that started in the 1960s, urban deindustrialization, better and cheaper housing in the suburbs, etc. was what drove urban populations outward. To say nothing of the social benefits of doing so, notably the better life-style that suburban living offered, as opposed to city living.