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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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.

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