Opting out of neighbourhood schools: The role of local education markets in student mobility

Rosario Scandurra*, Adrián Zancajo, Xavier Bonal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Open enrolment policies assume that students living in disadvantaged areas can access better schools outside their neighbourhood. However, characteristics of individuals, quality of schooling and neighbourhood characteristics interact in very complex ways to produce heterogeneous patterns of school choice in local educational markets. This article analyses how the geography of educational opportunities, the socioeconomic background of students' families and the characteristics of their residential areas, impact on the travel-to-school distance in Barcelona. Based on a unique data set of school and student registers from Barcelona's local education authority, our study shows that distances travelled by students with the same social background vary depending on the characteristics of educational supply and the income of the neighbourhood. While socially advantaged students tend to travel longer distances than their peers from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, geographical and educational factors mediate to produce high heterogeneity in mobility patterns. Our findings cast doubt on the supposed virtue of school choice to reduce education inequalities and underline the need to consider the diversity of local microeducation markets in policymaking and planning.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPopulation, Space and Place
Publication statusAccepted in press - 2021


  • distance
  • educational opportunity
  • school choice
  • school composition
  • spatial inequality


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