American Sociological Association

Choice, Preferences, and Constraints: Evidence from Public School Applications in Denver

Does ‘‘choosing a home’’ still matter for ‘‘choosing a school,’’ despite implementation of school choice policies designed to weaken this link? Prior research shows how the presence of such policies does little to solve the problems of stratification and segregation associated with residentially based enrollment systems, since families differ along racial/ethnic and socioeconomic lines in their access to, and how they participate in, the school choice process. We examine how families’ nearby school supply shapes and constrains their choices. Drawing on a unique dataset consisting of parents’ ranked preferences from among one urban district’s full menu of public schools, we find that Hispanic, white, and black parents share a strong preference for academic performance, but differences in their choices can be traced to variation in nearby supply. Our findings illustrate how the vastly different sets of schools from which parents can choose reproduce race-based patterns of stratification.


Denice, P., Gross, B.





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