Structured Choice: School Segregation at the Intersection of Policy and Preferences

In this descriptive study, the authors analyze the impact of policies and personal choices on school segregation. The study focuses on the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS), which provides families with options that include both neighborhood schools and other types of public schools. The authors examine the choices available to and made by parents enrolling their children in kindergarten between 1990-00 and 2010-11. Findings suggest that while families were offered a variety of school options with different racial compositions, their actual choices are influenced by race and ethnicity considerations. Most families selected their district-assigned school, especially Black and Hispanic families. However, white and Asian families did so less often if their district-assigned school had a high proportion of Black students. This paper sheds light on the complex dynamics between policy initiatives aimed at diversity and the real-world decisions families make, which continue to shape the racial landscape of public schools.

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