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Preferences, Information, and Parental Choice Behavior in Public School Choice

Author

Listed:
  • Justine S. Hastings
  • Richard Van Weelden
  • Jeffrey Weinstein

Abstract

The incentives and outcomes generated by public school choice depend to a large degree on parents' choice behavior. There is growing empirical evidence that low-income parents place lower weights on academics when choosing schools, but there is little evidence as to why. We use a field experiment in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public School district (CMS) to examine the degree to which information costs impact parental choices and their revealed preferences for academic achievement. We provided simplified information sheets on school average test scores or test scores coupled with estimated odds of admission to students in randomly selected schools along with their CMS school choice forms. We find that receiving simplified information leads to a significant increase in the average test score of the school chosen. This increase is equivalent to a doubling in the implicit preference for academic performance in a random utility model of school choice. Receiving information on odds of admission further increases the effect of simplified test score information on preferences for test scores among low-income families, but dampens the effect among higher-income families. Using within-family changes in choice behavior, we provide evidence that the estimated impact of simplified information is more consistent with lowered information costs than with suggestion or saliency.

Suggested Citation

  • Justine S. Hastings & Richard Van Weelden & Jeffrey Weinstein, 2007. "Preferences, Information, and Parental Choice Behavior in Public School Choice," NBER Working Papers 12995, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12995
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    Cited by:

    1. Simon Burgess & Ellen Greaves & Anna Vignoles & Deborah Wilson, 2015. "What Parents Want: School Preferences and School Choice," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 125(587), pages 1262-1289, September.
    2. C. Kirabo Jackson & Elias Bruegmann, 2009. "Teaching Students and Teaching Each Other: The Importance of Peer Learning for Teachers," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(4), pages 85-108, October.
    3. Loyalka, Prashant & Song, Yingquan & Wei, Jianguo & Zhong, Weiping & Rozelle, Scott, 2013. "Information, college decisions and financial aid: Evidence from a cluster-randomized controlled trial in China," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 26-40.
    4. Fack, Gabrielle & Grenet, Julien, 2010. "When do better schools raise housing prices? Evidence from Paris public and private schools," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1-2), pages 59-77, February.
    5. Koning, Pierre & van der Wiel, Karen, 2010. "Ranking the Schools: How Quality Information Affects School Choice in the Netherlands," IZA Discussion Papers 4984, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. repec:eee:ecoedu:v:63:y:2018:i:c:p:100-115 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Firpo, Sergio & Ponczek, Vladimir & Possebom, Vítor Augusto, 2014. "Private Education Market, Information on Test Scores and Tuition Practices," IZA Discussion Papers 8476, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Luigi Benfratello & Giuseppe Sorrenti & Gilberto Turati, 2015. "Tracking in the Tracks in the Italian Schooling: Inequality Patterns in an Urban Context," Working papers 030, Department of Economics and Statistics (Dipartimento di Scienze Economico-Sociali e Matematico-Statistiche), University of Torino.
    9. Borghans Lex & Golsteyn Bart H. H. & Zölitz Ulf, 2015. "Parental Preferences for Primary School Characteristics," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 15(1), pages 1-33, January.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • L3 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise

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