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What parents want: school preferences and school choice

Listed author(s):
  • Simon Burgess

    ()

    (CMPO, University of Bristol)

  • Ellen Greaves

    ()

    (CMPO, University of Bristol)

  • Anna Vignoles

    ()

    (DoQSS, Institute of Education, University of London)

  • Deborah Wilson

    ()

    (CMPO, University of Bristol)

Parental demand for academic performance is a key element in the view that strengthening school choice will drive up school performance. In this paper we analyse what parents look for in choosing schools. We assemble a unique dataset combining survey information on parents' choices plus a rich set of socio-economic characteristics; administrative data on school characteristics, admissions criteria and allocation rules; and spatial data attached to a pupil census to define the de facto set of schools available to each family in the survey. To achieve identification, we focus on cities where the school place allocation system is truth-revealing ("equal preferences"). We take great care in trying to capture the set of schools that each family could realistically choose from. We also look at a large subset of parents who continued living in the same house as before the child was born, to avoid endogenous house/school moves. We then model the choices made in terms of the characteristics of schools and families and the distances involved. School characteristics include measures of academic performance, school socio-economic and ethnic composition, and its faith school status. Initial results showed strong differences in the set of choices available to parents in different socio-economic positions. Our central analysis uses multinomial logistic regression to show that families do indeed value academic performance in schools. They also value school composition -- preferring schools with low fractions of children from poor families. We compute trade-offs between these characteristics as well as between these and distance travelled. We are able to compare these trade-offs for different families. Our results suggest that preferences do not vary greatly between different socio-economic groups once constraints are fully accounted for.

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Paper provided by Department of Quantitative Social Science - UCL Institute of Education, University College London in its series DoQSS Working Papers with number 09-01.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: 16 Nov 2009
Handle: RePEc:qss:dqsswp:0901
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Department of Quantitative Social Science. UCL IOE, 20 Bedford Way London WC1H 0AL

Phone: (44) (0)20 7612 6654. Eliminate (44) and add (0) if calling from inside the UK. Add (44) and eliminate (0) if calling from abroad.
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Web page: http://www.ioe.ac.uk/research/departments/qss/35445.html

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  1. Burgess, Simon & Briggs, Adam, 2010. "School assignment, school choice and social mobility," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 639-649, August.
  2. Caroline Minter Hoxby, 2003. "Introduction to "The Economics of School Choice"," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of School Choice, pages 1-22 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Simon Burgess & Helen Slater, 2006. "Using Boundary Changes to Estimate the Impact of School Competition on Test Scores," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 06/158, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  4. Stephen Gibbons & Shqiponja Telhaj, 2007. "Are Schools Drifting Apart? Intake Stratification in English Secondary Schools," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 44(7), pages 1281-1305, June.
  5. Sandra E. Black, 1999. "Do Better Schools Matter? Parental Valuation of Elementary Education," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(2), pages 577-599.
  6. Hoxby, Caroline M. (ed.), 2003. "The Economics of School Choice," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226355337.
  7. 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.
  8. Jesse M. Rothstein, 2006. "Good Principals or Good Peers? Parental Valuation of School Characteristics, Tiebout Equilibrium, and the Incentive Effects of Competition among Jurisdictions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1333-1350, September.
  9. Atila Abdulkadiroğlu & Parag A. Pathak & Alvin E. Roth & Tayfun Sönmez, 2005. "The Boston Public School Match," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 368-371, May.
  10. Victor Lavy, 2006. "From Forced Busing to Free Choice in Public Schools: Quasi-Experimental Evidence of Individual and General Effects," NBER Working Papers 11969, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Roth, Alvin E, 1984. "The Evolution of the Labor Market for Medical Interns and Residents: A Case Study in Game Theory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(6), pages 991-1016, December.
  12. Alan Collins & Martin Snell, 2000. "Parental preferences and choice of school," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(7), pages 803-813.
  13. Caroline M. Hoxby, 2003. "The Economics of School Choice," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number hox03-1, June.
  14. Parag A. Pathak & Tayfun Sonmez, 2008. "Leveling the Playing Field: Sincere and Sophisticated Players in the Boston Mechanism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1636-1652, September.
  15. Brian A. Jacob & Lars Lefgren, 2007. "What Do Parents Value in Education? An Empirical Investigation of Parents' Revealed Preferences for Teachers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(4), pages 1603-1637.
  16. Stephen Gibbons & Stephen Machin, 2006. "Paying for Primary Schools: Admission Constraints, School Popularity or Congestion?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(510), pages 77-92, 03.
  17. Rebecca Allen, 2007. "Allocating Pupils to Their Nearest Secondary School: The Consequences for Social and Ability Stratification," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 44(4), pages 751-770, April.
  18. John M. Quigley, 1976. "Housing Demand in the Short Run: An Analysis of Polytomous Choice," NBER Chapters,in: Explorations in Economic Research, Volume 3, number 1, pages 76-102 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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