The Role of Governmental Policies in Promoting Residential Segregation in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area

By Judd, Dennis R. | The Journal of Negro Education, Summer 1997 | Go to article overview

The Role of Governmental Policies in Promoting Residential Segregation in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area


Judd, Dennis R., The Journal of Negro Education


Dennis R. Judd, Department of Political Science, University of Missouri-St. Louis*

This article explains how local, state, and federal governments have exacerbated or failed to take steps to reduce residential segregation in the St. Louis metropolitan area since the District Court's 1981 decision in Liddell v. Board of Education The court ruled then that both the policies of the city school board and governmental housing policies had contributed to racial segregation in the city's schools. The author presents a comprehensive review of socioeconomic and political issues related to housing segregation in the St. Louis region, and offers five corrective actions to facilitate fair housing practices, policies, and enforcement in the region.

INTRODUCTION

In the 1977 Craton Liddell et al. v. the Board of Education of the City of St. Louis, Missouri et al. trial, the board of education (BOE) of the city of St. Louis argued that racial imbalance in that city's schools existed because of resegregative factors associated with governmental housing policies, and not because of school policies administered by the school board. In rejecting this argument in 1981, the District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri ruled that the policies of the school board contributed to racial segregation in the schools. The court also recognized that governmental housing policies had played an important contributing role, basing its conclusions in this regard primarily on the report of its independent housing expert, Gary Orfield.1 Orfield's comprehensive 153-page report, submitted on April 21, 1981, provided strong evidence that federally assisted housing has, over time, tended to resegregate African American populations.

The court subsequently ordered the state of Missouri, the United States, the city of St. Louis, and the BOE to develop a plan to ensure that housing programs would facilitate school desegregation. Though such a plan was drawn up, the state of Missouri refused to participate, and the plan was never implemented. Nearly two decades later, federally assisted housing yields the same effect, despite changes in policies at the federal level. The long-term pattern of local government resistance to racial integration in the St. Louis region has continued unchanged. Governments at all levels have continued to pursue policies that have promoted racial segregation in housing, in St. Louis and elsewhere, and they have failed to enact policies that would have the effect of reducing such segregation.

The effect of this governmental complicity and inaction is that the St. Louis metropolitan area remains highly segregated. The conditions of residential segregation documented in 1981 persist to this day. As in the past, segregation in housing continues to amplify school segregation, not only in St. Louis but across the nation. Because racial segregation in the schools is directly related to patterns of residential segregation, schools in the St. Louis metropolitan area, as in many urban areas in the United States, remain highly segregated. In this article, I demonstrate how, local, state, and federal governments have continued to exacerbate or have failed to take steps to reduce residential segregation in the St. Louis metropolitan area since the District Court's 1981 decision. I also present a comprehensive review of the socioeconomic and political issues related to housing in the St. Louis region, and offer five corrective actions to facilitate fair housing practices, policies, and enforcement across city and county lines.

THE LIDDELL CASE

In reaching its initial decision in Liddell, the District Court identified St. Louis "as an example of 'severe' residential segregation," and noted that "evidence of housing segregation in St. Louis is undisputed in the record" (Liddell, 1981, p. 1324). The Court further expressed its view that "government policies and action have been a major force in developing and maintaining housing discrimination against blacks" (p. …

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