HKS Authors

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School choice systems aspire to delink residential location and school assignments by allowing children to apply to schools outside of their neighborhood. However, choice programs also affect incentives to live in certain neighborhoods, and this feedback may undermine the goals of choice. We investigate this possibility by developing a model of public school and residential choice. School choice narrows the range between the highest and lowest quality schools compared to neighborhood assignment rules, and these changes in school quality are capitalized into equilibrium housing prices. This compressed distribution generates an ends-against-the-middle trade-off with school choice compared to neighborhood assignment. Paradoxically, even when choice results in improvement in the lowest-performing schools, the lowest type residents need not benefit.


Avery, Christopher, and Parag A. Pathak. "The Distributional Consequences of Public School Choice." American Economic Review 111.1 (January 2021): 129-52.