The Disparities between Urban and Suburban American Education Systems: A Comparative Analysis Using Social Closure Theory

Whitney Wright


Education is pivotal for the existence of humans. Education is used to develop minds in a myriad of ways for an individual to excel in critical thinking and fundamental learning. In America, education is a valuable resource for one’s social, economic and mental standing in society. About 86% of Americans now receive college degrees, compared to the 25% in 1927 (Pew Research Center, 2011). But education is still treated as a privilege instead of a right. Public education in urban areas is said to be significantly worse than in suburban areas. Only about 19% of students from urban school districts seek higher education compared to 70% of their suburban counterparts (Pew Research Center, 2011). Suburban and urban sectors of the education system are drastically different due to resources, teacher attrition rate, and lack of parental support. Funds are allocated to the top performing schools, leaving many low performing schools at a plateau to produce mediocrity. Consequently, even when education laws such as No Child Left Behind and The Elementary and Secondary Education Act which are suppose to create equity are implemented in schools, they instead create inequality in America’s public school system. Students in certain regions remain at a disadvantage, as one district is favored based on performance over low-performing districts. Using the Social Closure Theory, this comparative study tests the hypothesis that if school systems were granted equal access to the same funds and materials, then the disparities between suburban and urban school districts would diminish. Qualitative and quantitative data from case studies, scholarly articles and expert interviews were collected and analyzed to show the recursive lack of funding in urban school districts. The substantive findings of this study support the hypothesis tested and the call for equal educational resources for both urban and suburban school systems.


Public Education; Urban; Suburban; Social Closure Theory

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