Who Chooses Schools, and Why?

This policy brief examines empirical research on the demographic characteristics of students and families who actively engage in school choice as well as the research on the motivations, preferences and behavior of families who actively choose schools. Although there have been many surveys asking parents about their preferences for schools or about what they would choose if they had a choice, such studies are not the focus of this brief. Rather, the research reviewed here is only that which focuses on those who have actively chosen a school. The choice options examined here include home schooling, private schools, vouchers, and public school choice programs such as controlled choice districts, charter schools, and magnet schools.