Schools By Choice? Parental Preferences in Michigan's Inter-District Open Enrollment Program
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
The present paper contributes to this relatively underdeveloped literature in the school choice field by considering the characteristics of individual students who opt to leave their resident districts for a public school elsewhere through an open enrollment policy. Drawing on a rich set of administrative data on students in Michigan between 2005 and 2013, we follow up on earlier work examining the characteristics of choosers who, we find, tend to be from poor, minority families and have lower levels of achievement than their resident-district peers. Here we employ a McFadden choice model as a framework to consider the characteristics of schools these students choose. We find a mixed pattern depending on the geographic locations of students, with a variety of meaningful choices available to some students, but few or even single-option alternatives available to others. Preliminary evidence indicates that these students select higher performing and lower-minority schools than those in their resident districts, but these results, coupled with our earlier findings suggests that these choices are temporary for more disadvantaged students. Taken as a whole, our evidence is consistent with an interpretation of Michigan’s open enrollment program as one that functions less as a well-developed market for parental preferences, and more as a system that simply expands student mobility—particularly for at-risk students—beyond traditional district boundaries.