Does choice lead to racially distinctive schools? Charter schools and household preferences



A persistent fear regarding school choice is that it will lead to more racially distinctive schools. A growing number of studies compares choosing households to non-choosing households, but few have examined the possibility that choosers sort themselves out based upon school preferences that are correlated with race and ethnicity. This report addresses this issue by analyzing the responses of 1,006 charter school households in Texas. It first examines the expressed preferences of choosing households, then compares expressed preferences with behavior. A comparison of the characteristics of the traditional public schools that choosers leave with the characteristics of the charter schools they choose indicates that race is a good predictor of the choices that choosing households make. Whites, African Americans, and Latinos transfer into charter schools where their groups comprise between 11 and 14 percentage points more of the student body than the traditional public schools they are leaving. © 2002 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.