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Precedent, Parity, and Racial Discrimination: A Federal/State Comparison of the Impact of Brown v. Board of Education


  • David W. Romero,

  • Francine Sanders Romero

Address correspondence to David W. Romero, Department of Political Science and Geography, University of Texas at San Antonio, 6900 North Loop West, San Antonio, TX 78249-0648; e-mail:


Questions regarding Brown v. Board of Education's short-term effect remain unanswered, particularly its comparative impact on federal district courts and state supreme courts. We test this through an analysis of racial discrimination cases in those venues in the twenty-year period bifurcated by the decision in May 1954. Our findings suggest that while federal district courts and state courts were similarly unresponsive to discrimination claims before that date, Brown exerted a significant impact on district court decisions but had little influence at the state level. Furthermore, a third pattern was found in federal appellate courts, where discrimination claims had a high likelihood of pro-minority decisions even before the Supreme Court directive.