News & Politics

DC Urban Moms, the Catty Parenting Site of Washington’s Elite, Is Now the Subject of Academic Research on Segregation

The gossipy list is getting attention from scholars at the Brookings Institution and Gallaudet U.


For years, the blog DC Urban Moms and Dads has been the preferred destination for well-to-do Washington parents looking for tips on how to game the the public school lottery system, engage Landon-vs.-St. Albans debates, or judge the implications of posters’ decisions on whether or not to buy an up-market stroller. Now, the gossipy site has become the subject of academic study, as researchers from the Brookings Institution and Gallaudet University explore how informal conversations on the popular parenting blog may work to reinforce the racial segregation of  DC’s public education system. 

The 48-page report—titled, ‘We all want what’s best for our kids,’ Discussions of D.C. public school options in an online forum”—was published Monday. It was written by Vanessa Williamson and Jackson Gode of Brookings, and Hao Sun of Gallaudet. Among the interesting nuggets in the nuanced report:

The conversations in the ‘DC Public and Public Charter Schools’ forum shine a light on the mechanisms of segregation in the District’s public education system. We find that in DC Urban Moms’ conversations, schools are clustered—by grade, geography, and sector, but also by the racial makeup of the student body. These different school clusters are discussed using different terminology. We also find that within the DC Urban Moms’ forum much of the local school system is simply invisible; many schools are never discussed. Instead, a small fraction of the school system—generally, schools with a sizeable white population and schools in wealthy or gentrifying neighborhoods—receive an outsized share of attention. The correlation between attention to a school and its racial demographics persists, even within a gentrifying neighborhood…

Finally, a great deal of the activity on the forum is dedicated to discussing how to leverage the District’s complex school choice system to ensure that one’s children are in one of the small number of public schools deemed acceptable, a process that reinforces the District’s geographic and educational segregation.”

To read the full report, click here.

Senior Writer

Luke Mullins is a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine focusing on the people and institutions that control the city’s levers of power. He has written about the Koch Brothers’ attempt to take over The Cato Institute, David Gregory’s ouster as moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, the collapse of Washington’s Metro system, and the conflict that split apart the founders of Politico.