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The “Parenting Tax” Levied on Black Parents Conveniently Overlooked by Choice Advocates

January 1, 2021

This short but powerful article by Livia Gershon from an October 2019 JStor Daily describes the “parenting tax” levied on black parents because unlike their white counterparts, they are unable to reside in neighborhoods with desirable schools and are, therefore, compelled to spend time navigating the “choice” given to them in the urban areas where they reside. Based on a study conducted by sociologists Angela Simms and Elizabeth Talbert, one aspect of school choice that’s rarely part of the debate on “choice” is the “tax” in time and effort that it imposes on many black parents.

While white families often chose to live in specific communities because they were known for having “good schools,” that option was often not available to black families—and not just for financial reasons. Many black parents worried that moving into “good,” whiter districts would take them away from their social support systems, which, due to historical segregation, tend to be in communities with “bad” local schools.

Most voters– especially affluent white voters— want to believe that mobility is possible for all parents. But for many economically disadvantaged parents there are neighborhoods and communities that are not available to them, especially if they are minorities. When these families want to provide good schools for their children, they cannot simply choose to move to a town or zone that has a desirable school. Instead, they can enter the labyrinthine process of “choice”, where they submit paperwork for schools to pore over and decide if their child is worthy of consideration. This “hidden tax” is levied for all parents in some cities (i.e. NYC where “selective schools” begin at grade 6 and “magnet programs” begin as early as Kindergarten) and for poor and minority students in all too rare circumstances in some regions. But because there is “choice” it is possible for some politicians and voters to claim equity of opportunity without acknowledging the inequitable hardships that result from accessing choice. 

Ms. Gershon concludes her post with this:

Simms and Talbert write that this sort of “tax” in time and effort paid by black parents will continue as long as choice—rather than desegregating neighborhoods and equalizing communities’ school resources—is presented as the answer to unequal schools.



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