The literature on racial “peer effects” suggests that diversity improves at least some students' school performance. However, a literature in economic development posits that diversity may negatively affect school performance by undermining the efficient provision of education. This article empirically tests this claim, which we call the “public goods channel,” by examining the relationship between racial diversity and student performance in Ohio's school districts. The results show that moving from a completely homogenous school district to one in which two racial groups have equal population shares is associated with a 7–17.5 percentage point decline in the passage rate on the state math exam, holding per pupil spending across districts constant. These results suggest that racial diversity is negatively associated with school performance but that the public goods channel is not responsible for this relationship.
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