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Segregation by choice? The debate so far


  • Rich Harris



This paper offers an extensive review and bibliography of the literature on school choice, and its effects on social and ethnic segregation between English schools. It finds that the evidence concerning whether “school choice” legislation has acted to increase or decrease the socio-ethnic mix within schools is open to multiple interpretations, affected by how segregation is conceptualised and measured. Difficulties in reaching definite conclusions are compounded by the changing economic and demographic landscapes that confound attempts to show whether policies of school choice cause or reduce segregation. By the author’s judgement the policies have reinforced geographies of social segregation and of ethnic polarization in some places. However, this is not a failure of the principle of choice necessarily. Rather, it is a function of the constraints placed on that choice and an implicit if less spoken recognition of the value of local schooling.

Suggested Citation

  • Rich Harris, 2010. "Segregation by choice? The debate so far," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 10/251, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  • Handle: RePEc:bri:cmpowp:10/251

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    Cited by:

    1. Ruth Lupton & Stephanie Thomson, 2017. "The Effects of English Secondary School System Reforms (2002-2014) on Pupil Sorting and Social Segregation: A Greater Manchester Case Study," CASE - Social Policy in a Cold Climate Working Paper 24, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.

    More about this item


    Schools; choice; social segregation; ethnic segregation; segregation indices; education policy;

    JEL classification:

    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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