Working Paper

The Pathway to Enrolling in a High-Performance High School: Understanding Barriers to Access

Abstract: In 2017, Chicago Public Schools adopted an online universal application system for all high schools with the hope of providing more equitable access to high-performance schools. Despite the new system, Black students and students living in low-socioeconomic status (SES) neighborhoods remained less likely than their peers to enroll in a high-performance high school. In this paper, we characterize various constraints that students and families may face in enrolling in a high-performance high school including eligibility to programs based on prior academic achievement, distance from high-performance options, and neighborhood and elementary school resources. After adjusting for differences in these access factors, we find the gap between Black and Latinx students’ likelihood of enrolling in a high-performing high school is reduced by about 80 percent. We find a similarly large reduction in the enrollment gap between students from low- and middle-SES neighborhoods after adjusting for eligibility and distance factors. These findings have implications for policies that may help equalize access to high-performance schools through changes to eligibility requirements and improved transportation options.

Keywords: school choice; secondary school; school access; inequality; equality of opportunity;

JEL Classification: I21; I24;

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Bibliographic Information

Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

Part of Series: Working Paper Series

Publication Date: 2020-12-04

Number: WP-2020-32