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The Social Cost of Open Enrollment as a School Choice Policy



We evaluate the integrating and segregating effects of school choice in a large, urban school district. Our findings, based on applications for fall 2001, suggest that open enrollment, a school-choice program that does not have explicit integrative objectives and does not provide busing, segregates students along three socioeconomic dimensions – race/ethnicity, student achievement and parental-education status. Using information on expenditures to promote integration at the district, we back out estimates of the social cost of open enrollment realized in terms of student segregation. Our social-cost estimates range widely depending on the weights that we place on the different dimensions of integration. However, even using conservative valuations of the different integrative measures suggests a social cost at this single district of over 3.4 million dollars (in year-2000 dollars). When considered in the context of the nation as a whole, where open- enrollment programs are commonplace, this estimate from a single district is substantial. However, we also note that there may be benefits not related to integration that counterbalance some or all of these costs.

Suggested Citation

  • Cory Koedel & Julian R. Betts & Lorien A. Rice & Andrew C. Zau, 2009. "The Social Cost of Open Enrollment as a School Choice Policy," Working Papers 0906, Department of Economics, University of Missouri, revised 13 Apr 2010.
  • Handle: RePEc:umc:wpaper:0910

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    1. Kate Antonovics & Brian G. Knight, 2009. "A New Look at Racial Profiling: Evidence from the Boston Police Department," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 163-177, February.
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    3. Julie Berry Cullen & Brian A Jacob & Steven Levitt, 2006. "The Effect of School Choice on Participants: Evidence from Randomized Lotteries," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(5), pages 1191-1230, September.
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    5. Jonathan Guryan, 2004. "Desegregation and Black Dropout Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 919-943, September.
    6. Robert Bifulco & Helen F. Ladd & Stephen Ross, 2007. "Public School Choice and Integration: Evidence from Durham, North Carolina," Working papers 2007-41, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics, revised Jun 2008.
    7. Joshua Angrist & Eric Bettinger & Erik Bloom & Elizabeth King & Michael Kremer, 2002. "Vouchers for Private Schooling in Colombia: Evidence from a Randomized Natural Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1535-1558, December.
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    More about this item


    school choice; open enrollment; integration; segregation; segregation costs;

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population

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