Public School Choice and Integration: Evidence from Durham, North Carolina
Using evidence from Durham, North Carolina, we examine the impact of school choice programs on racial and class-based segregation across schools. Theoretical considerations suggest that how choice programs affect segregation will depend not only on the family preferences emphasized inthe sociology literature but also on the linkages between student composition, school quality and student achievement emphasized in the economics literature. Reasonable assumptions about the distribution of preferences over race, class, and school characteristics suggest that the segregating choices of students from advantaged backgrounds are likely to outweigh any integrating choices by disadvantaged students. The results of our empirical analysis are consistent with these theoretical considerations. Using information on the actual schools students attend and on the schools in their assigned attendance zones, we find that schools in Durham are more segregated by race and class as a result of school choice programs than they would be if all students attended their geographically assigned schools. In addition, we find that the effects of choice on segregation by class are larger than the ffects on segregation by race.
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