Part or chapter of a book
Urban and school segregation in the larger Paris metropolitan area: a complex interweaving with a strong qualitative impact on social cohesion
Handbook of Urban Segregation
Cheltenham : Edward Elgar Publishing
134 - 150 p.
school segregation, social cohesion, urban segregation, Paris metropolitan area
There is a strong tradition of studying residential segregation and school segregation as separate phenomena. It is less common to find research that attempts to connect the two and measure the combined consequences on inequality and social cohesion. While many authors in the US have taken an interest in this connection, it remains less studied in France compared to other European countries like Great Britain, Finland and the Netherlands. This is quite surprising in a country where, due to a rather rigid policy of school catchment areas based on place of residence in large cities, there is a strong correlation between socio-residential segregation and school segregation. To understand this complex, interdependent link, we have to take into account institutional, social and urban dimensions. The chapter has two main goals. The first is to show that school segregation is not merely a simple, mechanical reflection of residential segregation, but the result of many processes related to school policies, parental strategies and urban inequalities. For this reason, we pay attention to the specific context of the metropolitan area of Paris, both in terms of residential and school segregation and in terms of school policy. The second aim of this chapter is to show that school segregation not only has an impact on school achievement, but also on more qualitative issues such as the perception of inequalities and the feeling of discrimination. Here, we will not focus on the impact on school performance, but rather on how it shapes how people perceive school segregation. The first part of the chapter deals with the first aim, and will present and discuss how and why, in the city of Paris, school segregation is more intense than residential segregation, and some of the reasons school issues are increasingly interwoven with residential strategies. After an overall presentation of the French context, and school and residential patterns in Paris, we will show that school segregation is not only the result of lower-middle-class parents avoiding local working-class public schools. The chapter will look closely at the impact of selective upper-middle-class school choices, even when families live in advantaged neighbourhoods. The second part of the chapter addresses the second aim, offering an explanation for why the feeling of being trapped in segregated, ‘disreputable’ public schools, a feeling which is shared among people from disadvantaged and immigrant backgrounds as well as parts of the lower-middle class, has a deep impact on social cohesion. We will see how this encourages working-class people to think more in terms of discrimination (segregation as the result of an intentional process) rather than in terms of inequality, calling into question public schools’ capacity for guaranteeing equal opportunity. This is another way of analysing how people facing an unequal context perceive injustice.