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Soc Sci Res. 2015 May;51:30-50. doi: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2014.12.005. Epub 2014 Dec 19.

School choice & social stratification: how intra-district transfers shift the racial/ethnic and economic composition of schools.

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Brigham Young University, Department of Sociology, Provo, UT, USA. Electronic address:
Brigham Young University, Idaho Department of Sociology, Rexburg, ID, USA.
Eastern Kentucky University, Department of Educational Leadership, Richmond, KY, USA.


The liberation model hypothesizes that school choice liberates students from underperforming schools by giving them the opportunity to seek academically superior schooling options outside of their neighborhoods. Subsequently, school choice is hypothesized to diminish stratification in schools. Data from one urban school district is analyzed to test these hypotheses. We specifically examine which factors influence the propensity for parents to participate in choice, and how school choice changes the racial/ethnic and economic composition of schools. We further examine how school choice influences similar changes within distinct sociogeographic areas within the district. We find that families who are zoned to more racially/ethnically and economically diverse schools in sociogeographically diverse areas are more likely to participate in school choice. We also find that intra-district choice is associated with a slight increase in social stratification throughout the district, with more substantial stratification occurring in the most demographically diverse areas and schools.


Educational equity; School choice; School segregation; Social stratification

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