05 SES 08, Communities and Localities
Choosing a school for their children often is a weighty and deliberate process for families. In stratified school systems, particularly the choice of a secondary school is a consequential transition, often affecting long-term life chances of students. The distance to school as well as the achievement level of a school are main factors which are considered when parents chose a school. As information on achievement of a school is not always available, parents often search for approximations. For example, research on parental school choices showed that parents from the ethnic majority oten avoid schools if these are attended by high shares of minority students, a tendency often referred to as white flight or, more generally, as majority flight (e.g., Billingham and Hunt 2016; Fairlie and Resch 2002; Saporito and Lareau 1999). Apparently, a high share of immigrant students is taken as a proxy for lower achievement. The segregating school choices however can have important ramifications for students’ intergroup contact and attitudes (Allport 1954; Blau 1977; Feld 1981). Particularly immigrant students may face disadvantages in highly segregated classrooms and schools: Research has shown that language skills and educational achievement are lower when the share of immigrants is higher (Portes and Hao 2004; Szulkin and Jonsson 2007, Van der Slik et al. 2006). Ethnic segregation across schools thus influences the process of immigrant integration.
Ethnic segregation in schools however is not only a result of majority flight. The institutional setup of a school system also plays a role. Particularly, between-school ability tracking, a rule that sorts students into schools of different types based on their prior achievement, is often argued to steer minority and majority students into separate schools (Gramberg 1998; Karsten et al. 2006, Kruse 2018; Kruse and Kalter 2018). This sorting results from “primary effects of ethnic origin” (Kristen & Dollmann 2010): due to their lower endowment with economic resources and cultural capital, students from immigrant background on average perform lower compared to non-immigrant students.
In this study, we test the interplay of these two drivers of ethnic school segregation: majority flight and stratification. More specifically, we ask whether the institutional rule of between-school tracking can mitigate parental white flight: In more stratified school systems, majority parents are less inclined to be selective in their school choices, given that ability grouping ensures the provision of satisfying choice alternatives. Hence, majority flight from local (i.e. nearby) schools should be less prevalent. In turn, when ability grouping across different school tracks is not as prevalent, parents have to rely on their own assessment of a school’s achievement and the share of immigrants at a school becomes relevant. Previous work provided first corroboration of this idea based on aggregated patterns of school segregation (see Kruse 2018). Our analysis is the first to empirically zoom in on the actual choice alternatives parents face and the decisions they take in a school system deploying (locally varying degrees of) between-school ability tracking.
To assess the mitigating impact of between-school tracking on majority flight, we exploit spatial variation in stratification within a single country, namely Germany. The 16 federal states exhibit different degrees of stratification between different secondary school types. Relying on within-country variation instead of between-country variation allows us to hold constant a number of potentially confounding factors (e.g., cultural distances between majority and minority groups). Germany thereby serves as an ideal candidate to investigate the interplay of between-school tracking and white flight: it deploys the institutional rule of between-school tracking at locally varying degrees. In addition, secondary school choices in Germany are usually not geographically restricted, giving way for majority flight to emerge. We draw on unique data from the “Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Survey in Four European Countries” (CILS4EU), more specifically on its first wave in Germany from 2010/11. We combine the CILS4EU data with administrative data on all secondary schools in Germany via geocoding. Taken together, the combined data provide information on a representative sample of students attending ninth grade across all secondary school types in Germany as well as on their parents. More specifically, we have detailed information on students’ and parents’ individual background characteristics, their place of residence, the schools that the students attend as well as the locations of all schools in their close surrounding that they did not choose. We apply conditional logit models in order to assess the realized school choices of majority and minority students. We distinguish potential choices for single schools according to their distance from home. Taken together, we can use these unique data to assess whether majority parents avoid their locally closest schools more often in areas where between-school ability tracking is less strictly enforced.
First results show that minority families tend to chose schools that are closer to their homes. This finding supports previous findings on the differential impact of distance to school for immigrants and non-immigrants (Schneider et al. 2011). When we differentiate tracking regimes, we find that the lower tendency of majority familiy to chose the nearest school decreases further in lower stratified regions. A further differentiation of different school types reveals that majority families who chose a Gymnasium (highest track) show the strongest “flight” tendencies. Our approach provides a direct and rigorous empirical test of the idea that institutional rules may be able to mitigate ethnically-specific school choice tendencies.
Allport 1954 The Nature of Prejudice. Cambridge, Mass. : Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Billingham, C. M., and M. O. Hunt. 2016. “School Racial Composition and Parental Choice: New Evidence on the Preferences of White Parents in the United States.” Sociology of Education 89(2):99–117. Blau, Peter M. 1977. Inequality and Heterogeneity: A Primitive Theory of Social Structure. New York: Macmillan Co. Fairlie, R. W., and A. M. Resch. 2002. “Is There “White Flight” into Private Schools? Evidence from the National Educational Longitudinal Survey.” Review of Economics and Statistics 84(1):21–33. Feld, Scott L. 1981. "The Focused Organization of Social Ties." American Journal of Sociology 86(5):1015-35. Fiel, J. 2015. “Closing Ranks: Closure, Status Competition, and School Segregation.” American Journal of Sociology 121(1):126–70. Gramberg, P. 1998. “School Segregation: The Case of Amsterdam.” Urban Studies 35(3):547-564 Karsten, S., et al.. 2006. “Choosing Segregation or Integration? The Extent and Effects of Ethnic Segregation in Dutch Cities.” Education and Urban Society 38(2):228–47. Kristen, C. & Dollmann, J., 2010. Sekundäre Effekte der ethnischen Herkunft: Kinder aus türkischen Familien am ersten Bildungsübergang. In J. Baumert, K. Maaz, & U. Trautwein, eds. Bildungsentscheidungen: Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft Sonderheft 12 | 2009. Kruse, H. 2018 "Between-School Ability Tracking and Ethnic Segregation in Secondary Schooling" Social Forces, Online advance access. Kruse, H., & Kalter, F. (2018). Learning together or apart? Ethnic segregation in lower secondary schools. In F. Kalter, J. O. Jonsson, & F. van Tubergen (Eds.), Growing up in Diverse Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Portes, A., & Hao, L. (2004). The schooling of children of immigrants: Contextual effects on the educational attainment of the second generation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 101(33), 11920–11927. Saporito, S., and A. Lareau. 1999. “School Selection as a Process: The Multiple Dimensions of Race in Framing Educational Choice.” Social Problems 46(3):418–39. Schneider, K.,et al. 2011. “The effect of free primary school choice on ethnic groups: Evidence from a policy reform.” Schumpeter Discussion Papers, No 2011-007, Smith, S., et.al. 2016. "Ethnic Composition and Friendship Segregation: Differential Effects for Adolescent Natives and Immigrants." American Journal of Sociology 121(4):1223-72. Szulkin, R., & Jonsson, J. O. (2007). Ethnic Segregation and Educational Outcomes in Swedish Comprehensive Schools (SULCIS Working Paper 2007: 2). Van der Slik, F. W. P., Driessen, G. W. J. M., & De Bot, K. L. J. (2006). Ethnic and Socioeconomic Class Composition and Language Proficiency: a Longitudinal Multilevel Examination in Dutch Elementary Schools. European Sociological Review, 22(3), 293–308.
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