A new report from The Century Foundation discusses how restrictive zoning laws lead to educational inequality in Scarsdale and Port Chester, two disparate Westchester County, New York towns just outside of New York City. While Scarsdale is predominantly affluent and white with a median household income of $250,000 (making it one of the richest towns in the country), Port Chester is mostly Hispanic and markedly less affluent, with a median household income of $88,903. These disparities are also evident in their rates of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher – 90.7% in Scarsdale compared to only 31.1% in Port Chester.
The report outlines differences in children’s school performances between the two towns (with Scarsdale students performing markedly better than their Port Chester counterparts) and discusses the roots of this educational achievement gap, noting that the much higher rates of family poverty in Port Chester compared to Scarsdale tell only part of the story. The report discusses how economic segregation, or the concentration of student poverty, is a key factor in explaining these racial and economic differences between the towns, and that this segregation has been driven by the county’s legacy of restrictive zoning laws and other policies and practices.
The author discusses in detail how the county’s history of exclusionary zoning laws (and in Scarsdale in particular), resisting housing desegregation, and location of public housing properties in majority-Black and/or Hispanic neighborhoods have furthered economic segregation and its resulting inequities, and the report concludes by advocating for stakeholders to continue to fight against zoning restrictions that deepen racial, economic, and education disparities.