Panel Paper: School Choice Through Housing Choice: How Increased Housing Opportunity Affects Educational Access for Poor Children

Thursday, November 8, 2012 : 3:20 PM
Pratt A (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Stefanie DeLuca and Peter Rosenblatt, Johns Hopkins University

In America, housing choice is school choice. Where a family lives determines the quality of their children’s education, a connection that has profound consequences for social inequality. Over 70% of minority children attend high poverty and mostly segregated schools and their test scores lag precipitously behind their white counterparts. Recent Supreme Court decisions suggest that plans to integrate schools explicitly on the basis of race are a thing of the past, and many school based reform efforts fail to provide poor minority children with access to the same kinds of educational environments as middle class white students.  How else can such disparities in access to educational opportunities be remedied? One way to increase the chances that minority children will attend higher quality schools alongside their more affluent peers is to give these children a chance to live in the same communities.  This study examines what we have learned from a unique housing assistance program in Baltimore to explore whether and how improvements in housing access translate into gains in neighborhood quality and educational opportunities for poor minority children. As a result of a class action housing desegregation lawsuit, almost 2000 families have relocated from Baltimore’s public housing communities into mostly white, non-poor neighborhoods across the metropolitan region, starting in 2003 and continuing through the present day. Through the program, children have the opportunity to switch from some of the city’s worst performing schools to some of central Maryland’s best school districts. Using administrative data, we will explore how residential mobility leads to changes in the school zone boundaries, and present early results from our interviews with some of the families who have moved with the program.