Category: Working Papers

Another One Rides the Bus: The Impact of School Transportation on Student Outcomes in Michigan

By Danielle Sanderson Edwards. Last Updated: February 2021

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Abstract

School transportation may increase student outcomes by providing a reliable and safe means of getting to and from school. Little evidence of the effects of such policies exists. In this paper, I provide some of the first causal evidence of transportation impacts on student attendance and achievement using a rich panel of student-level enrollment and address data for Michigan public school students, and a unique dataset of district transportation policies for the largest 50 districts in Michigan. I exploit the walking distance cutoffs that determine transportation eligibility using a regression discontinuity design. I find that transportation eligibility increases attendance rates and lowers the probability of chronic absence. These effects are largest for economically disadvantaged students, who experience 0.5 to 1 percentage point increase in attendance rates and a 2 to 4 percentage point decrease in the probability of being chronically absent. These results are compelling evidence that school-provided transportation increases attendance for students most at-risk to miss school. However, I find no effect of school transportation on student achievement outcomes.

The Farther You Go, The Closer You Get: The Roles of Residential Mobility and Distance in Participation in Public School Choice. 

By Danielle Sanderson Edwards and Joshua Cowen. Last Updated: February 2021

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Abstract

Families’ abilities to participate in public school choice programs may be constrained by residential and school location. We provide some of the first evidence of the role that residential mobility and commute time to school in entry into and exit from inter-district and charter school choice. Using a unique panel of student enrollment and address data, we describe residential mobility patterns, calculate commute times, and estimate a set of hazard models predicting exit from formal choice policies for Michigan students. We find that the majority of students who exit choice programs change residences. Additionally, students have a higher probability of leaving choice programs the farther they travel to school past their assigned school. We conclude that residential mobility and commute are likely significant determinants of families’ school choice decisions, especially in their decision to remain in choice programs, and should be considered in future school choice policies and research.

All Decisions are Local: How District Rules Can Promote or Restrict School Choices

By Danielle Sanderson Edwards and Joshua Cowen. Last Updated: June 2020

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Abstract

While most national attention surrounding school choice has centered on families’ decisions to enroll in charter schools, students can also enroll in neighboring school districts outside of their home districts through interdistrict choice programs. We examine Michigan’s statewide interdistrict choice program known as “Schools of Choice.” A particular feature of Michigan’s Schools of Choice program is that districts that participate in Schools of Choice can place limits on the number of students they will accept and in which grades, schools, and programs, set enrollment deadlines, and decide whether or not to offer transportation to non-resident students. Such local discretion has the potential to create unequal access to school choice. We analyze original data collected from 84% of Michigan districts as well publicly available school-level data to report differences in local rules and regulations governing Schools of Choice. We find that most districts that participate in Schools of Choice limit participation of nonresident students, one-third require enrollment as early as the previous spring or winter, and few districts provide transportation to non-resident students. Districts located near poorer districts or districts with higher rates of students of color—especially those located around metropolitan areas—require early deadlines and restrict access to school transportation for students living outside of their districts.