University of Wisconsin–Madison
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Administrative complexity as a barrier to school choice

Many school districts are now offering public school choice programs, where students rank schools in their district, and placement is determined by lottery. Multiple studies have found large positive effects of winning public school choice lotteries on longer-run outcomes, indicating that this strategy could potentially improve the outcomes of low-income students. However, my colleagues and I have found that disadvantaged students in New York City choose schools that are lower-performing than other schools that require comparable travel times from their home. This is partly because they are less likely to apply to higher-performing schools, and partly because even when they do apply, they often have limited access to crucial information and their strategies for navigating the process are less effective than those of their higher-income peers. In this article, I look at how administrative features of the New York City school choice system may constrain choices for lower-income students, and suggest some policy changes that may ameliorate this.


Education & Training, Inequality & Mobility, Intergenerational Poverty, K-12 Education