What do families take into account when choosing their children's school? Factors of school choice and discard in the city of Barcelona

Miguel Ángel Alegre Canosa, Ricardo Benito Pérez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the motivations that lead families to choose a P3 school in the city of Barcelona. It has been elaborated from the empirical information produced by a study carried out by the authors between 2008 and 2009. According to the quantitative data presented here, educational-specific motivations (school educational project) and pragmatic-specific criteria (home-school proximity and siblings already at the school) are salient amongst positive school choice factors. In contrast, beyond these same factors, other reasons such us school composition and the quality of teachers become significant amongst negative school choices (discarded decisions). A typological operation permits to identify four family groups using distinct logics of school choice. Such findings are interpreted also on the basis of the interviews carried out. In particular, "selective families" (group 1) and "instrumental families" (group 2), with varying degrees of intensity, orient their choices towards maximizing their children opportunities of academic success. Among "expressive families" (group 3), the concern is more on the value orientation side of schools rather than on their instrumental dimension. "Delegative families" (group 4), in general, are less demanding, and tend to prioritize only the criteria of school-home proximity. Finally, significant alignments between social inequalities and choice groups are observed; more specifically, the average level of education is markedly higher among "selective families" than among "delegative families". In consequence, we conclude that the liberalization of school choice that comes along with education quasi-markets, far from opening the real margin of choice to all families, tends to favor the objectives, capacities and resources of certain groups of families.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-79
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2012


  • Quasi-markets
  • School access
  • School choice
  • School composition
  • School segregation


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