Choice, Information, and Constrained Options: School Transfers in a Stratified Educational System

Peter M. Rich, Jennifer L. Jennings

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    It is well known that family socioeconomic background influences childhood access to opportunities. Educational reforms that introduce new information about school quality may lead to increased inequality if families with more resources are better able to respond. However, these policies can also level the playing field for choice by equalizing disadvantaged families’ access to information. This study assesses how a novel accountability system affected family enrollment decisions in the Chicago Public Schools by introducing new test performance information and consequences. We show that a substantial proportion of families responded by transferring out when their child’s school was assigned “probation.” Poor families transferred children to other schools in the district, but at a lower rate than non-poor families, who were also more likely to leave for another district or enroll in private school. Most striking, we show that despite family response to the probation label, access to higher-performing schools changed very little under the new policy; students who left probation schools were the most likely of all transfer students to enroll in other low-performing schools in the district. Although new information changed families’ behavior, it did not address contextual and resource-dependent factors that constrain the educational decisions of poor families.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1069-1098
    Number of pages30
    JournalAmerican Sociological Review
    Volume80
    Issue number5
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Oct 1 2015

    Fingerprint

    educational system
    school
    probation
    district
    private school
    educational reform
    resources
    student
    childhood
    responsibility

    Keywords

    • education
    • public policy
    • school choice
    • segregation
    • social stratification
    • urban sociology

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science

    Cite this

    Choice, Information, and Constrained Options: School Transfers in a Stratified Educational System. / Rich, Peter M.; Jennings, Jennifer L.

    In: American Sociological Review, Vol. 80, No. 5, 01.10.2015, p. 1069-1098.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Rich, Peter M. ; Jennings, Jennifer L. / Choice, Information, and Constrained Options: School Transfers in a Stratified Educational System. In: American Sociological Review. 2015 ; Vol. 80, No. 5. pp. 1069-1098.
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