Using evidence from Durham, North Carolina, we examine the impact of school choice programs on racial and class-based segregation across schools. Theoretical considerations suggest that how choice programs affect segregation will depend not only on the family preferences emphasized in the sociology literature but also on the linkages between student composition, school quality and student achievement emphasized in the economics literature, and on the availability of schools of different types. Reasonable assumptions about how these factors differ for students of different races and socio-economic status suggest that the segregating choices of students from advantaged backgrounds are likely to outweigh any integrating choices by disadvantaged students. The results of our empirical analysis are consistent with these theoretical considerations. Using information on the actual schools students attend and on the schools in their assigned attendance zones, we find that schools in Durham are more segregated by race and class as a result of school choice programs than they would be if all students attended their geographically assigned schools. In addition, we find that the effects of choice on segregation by class are larger than the effects on segregation by race.
Bifulco, Robert; Ladd, Helen F.; and Ross, Stephen, "Public School Choice and Integration: Evidence from Durham, North Carolina" (2007). Economics Working Papers. Paper 200741.