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Panel 74. School segregation across the North and South: exploring the interplay between households’ choice and public policy


Carlotta Caciagli (Politecnico di Milano, Italy), Marta Cordini (Politecnico di Milano, Italy), Carolina Pacchi (Politecnico di Milano, Italy), Andrea Parma (Politecnico di Milano, Italy), Quentin Ramond (Universidad Mayor, Chile), Robert Vief (Humboldt-University of Berlin, Germany).


In recent decades, school segregation has increased in major cities across Europe (Boterman et al., 2019), the US (Owens, 2020) and South America (Krüger, 2019). This trend raises concerns because school segregation exacerbates inequalities and can undermine social cohesion. School segregation is strongly connected to residential factors, not only in residence-based school assignment systems, but also in contexts where more freedom of choice is allowed. High socioeconomic groups may buy or rent housing in neighborhoods that ensure access to high-quality education while lower-income households face challenges in accessing those places (Cuddy et al., 2020). School choice strategies are also shaped by territorial factors, such as the distribution of the school offer, transportation system and neighborhood composition (Wilson & Bridge, 2019). As such, rising housing affordability constraints, which decrease residential options for a large segment of the population, may produce additional shifts in school choice tactics. Moreover, parents’ ability to exercise school choice depends on the features of the educational systems (e.g., enrolment policies, level of privatization) and on housing policies that influence the sorting of households across neighborhoods (Ramond & Oberti, 2022). 

This session takes these insights as starting points to examine the factors that contribute to produce, exacerbate, and mitigate school segregation, focusing particularly on the interplay between households’ preferences and behaviors and the influence of schooling, welfare, housing, and urban policies. We intend to foster discussions about the dynamics of school segregation across the North and South by inviting contributions that delve into the following areas of interest.

First, we seek to examine the interplay within the decision-making processes of residential and school choices. Our focus extends beyond conventional approaches that typically view residential and school choices as isolated family decisions. Instead, we encourage studies that emphasize the relational nature of these processes and the role of structural constraints and regulations in both housing and school markets. Given the expansion of school choice policies that provide more options to avoid local public schools, we are keen on exploring patterns and determinants of home-to-school mobility.

Second, we aim to analyze the connection between public policies and the dynamics of school segregation. We invite scholars to reflect on the influence of non-educational policies in school segregation. Urban regeneration, housing social mix policies, the strengthening of territorial services for children and families can potentially influence the attractiveness of schools located in disadvantaged neighborhoods and thereby contribute to school desegregation. Conversely, these policies may trigger gentrification processes leading to a further exclusion of marginalized populations.

Finally, a transversal goal of our session is to convene scholars whose work contributes to advancing the study of the contextual and institutional mechanisms that shape the links between school and residential segregation. We encourage contributions that bridge theoretical strands and empirical findings across the Global North and Global South to offer new comparative insights into the production of inequality. We also invite presentations which stimulate the discussion about the methodological challenges and different data types in studying school segregation.


Boterman, W., Musterd, S., Pacchi, C., & Ranci, C. (2019). School segregation in contemporary cities: Socio-spatial dynamics, institutional context and urban outcomes. Urban Studies, 56(15), 3055–3073.

Cuddy, M., Krysan, M., & Lewis, A. (2020). Choosing homes without choosing schools? How urban parents navigate decisions about neighborhoods and school choice. Journal of Urban Affairs, 42(8), 1180–1201.

Krüger, N. (2019). La segregación por nivel socioeconómico como dimensión de la exclusión educativa: 15 años de evolución en América Latina. Archivos Analíticos de Políticas Educativas, 27(8), 35–67.

Owens, A. (2020). Unequal Opportunity: School and Neighborhood Segregation in the USA. Race and Social Problems, 12(1), 29–41.

Ramond, Q., & Oberti, M. (2022). Housing tenure and educational opportunity in the Paris metropolitan area. Housing Studies, 37(7), 1079–1099.

Wilson, D., & Bridge, G. (2019). School choice and the city: Geographies of allocation and segregation. Urban Studies, 56(15), 3198–3215.

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