School choice and competitive incentives: Mapping the distribution of educational opportunities across local education markets


Competition sparked by school choice is expected to generate greater educational opportunities, particularly for disadvantaged students. The premise is that competitive incentives will change the organizational behavior of schools (and districts, dioceses, etc.) in ways that will lead to more equitable access for students across varied and often segregated urban landscapes. Drawing from theories of institutional environments and nonprofit firms, this analysis investigates patterns of access across three highly competitive local education markets to determine how school choices are arranged as options expand. The findings indicate that competitive incentives can have similar impacts on different types of organizations, but both policy variations and contextual factors such as demographic distributions may also play critical roles in shaping the market structures in which schools operate. Notably, all three cases showed patterns of xclusionary strategies that schools embraced to enhance market position. © 2009 by The University of Chicago.

Publication Title

American Journal of Education