Parent Decision-Making and School Choice

Authored by: Huriya Jabbar , Sarah Winchell Lenhoff

Handbook of Research on School Choice

Print publication date:  June  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9780815381464
eBook ISBN: 9781351210447
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter reviews literature on how parents make decisions about schools, what schools they select, the types of families who participate in school choice programs, and how the policy context shapes parents’ choices. First, the chapter examines how parent decision-making is conceived within the rational choice model, what research reveals about whether parents make rational choices, and how that may vary by parent characteristics. Next, the chapter considers the methods and information parents use to make school choices and what the research says about their actual and expressed preferences. Lastly, the chapter reviews research exploring school choice policy contexts in order to bound the evidence about parent decision-making within the landscape of choices parents perceive. The chapter uncovers different ways parents are constrained in their decision-making about schools. They make contextualized choices subject to bounded rationality, structural barriers, and individual preferences that are often not easily captured with traditional research methods. Emerging research in fields such as psychology and economics offers new perspectives on how to understand these constraints. The chapter concludes with recommendations for future work.

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