Information and School Choice

Authored by: Sean P. Corcoran , Jennifer L. Jennings

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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Whether school choice lives up to its promise of promoting broad access to quality schools depends on families’ ability to make a well-informed choice. This chapter examines the role of information in school choice decision-making. Families vary in their knowledge of schools, their sources of information, their capacity to use information, and their preferences for school characteristics. Those of all backgrounds express a clear preference for academically strong schools, but their choices often belie this stated preference. In the case of disadvantaged families, safety and proximity may take precedence over academic performance. Studies find that parents are generically aware of opportunities to choose, but they lack “hard knowledge” about school performance or the choice process in general. They draw on multiple sources of information to learn about schools but lean heavily on friends and family when making a choice. Higher-SES families are more likely to use school performance data in their decision, but they also rely more on social networks, which are more extensive than those of lower-SES families. Recent experimental studies have found that simplified and comparative information about schools can improve the quality of schools to which low-income families apply.

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