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School Quality, School Choice, and Residential Mobility

Eric Brunner

May 2014, English

Eric J. Brunner reviews two areas of research concerning the link between residential location and school quality: (1) the long-standing and growing literature on the effects of a residentially based assignment system that rations access to high-quality schools through the housing market; and (2) the relatively new literature on the impact of school choice on that system.

His analysis supports three major conclusions. First, under a residentially based school assignment system, residential location decisions lead to communities that are racially and economically stratified, with greater stratification in metropolitan areas with more numerous school districts. Second, attempts to equalize educational opportunities through court orders or legislation have been only partially successful, because residential location decisions can to a certain degree undo the effects of the reforms. Finally, school choice to some extent unlinks residential location and school quality, and the small theoretical and empirical literatures both support the idea that school choice has the potential to significantly reduce income disparities across communities.

This paper was presented at the Lincoln Institute’s annual Land Policy Conference in 2013 and is Chapter 3 of the book Education, Land, and Location.


Community Development, Economic Development, Housing, Inequality, Legal Issues, Local Government, Poverty, Public Policy, Segregation