Charter Schools Serving An Increasingly White Population Of Students
New research shows that charter schools are increasingly serving white students, as minority representation has dropped over time.
We have examined the evolution of the charter school sector in North Carolina between 1999 and 2012 with attention to three market-related considerations. First, we find that the state’s charter schools, which started out disproportionately serving minority students, have been serving an increasingly white student population over time. In addition, during the period, individual charter schools have become increasingly racially imbalanced, in the sense that some are serving primarily minority students and others are serving primarily white students. The resulting market segmentation in the charter school sector reflects a major difference between charter schools and the typical textbook version of a private sector market. In the case of schools, consumers—in this case, parents—care not only about the quality of a school’s program but also the mix of students in the school. As a result, market forces will tend to lead not only to more satisfied consumers, but also to market segmentation, which in the case of schools is typically by the race of the student.
Second, we find that, as would be predicted, the quality of the match between parental preferences and the offering of the schools is in general higher for charter schools than for traditional public schools, where our proxy for match quality is the demographic-adjusted proportion of parents who keep their children in the charter school the next year relative to similar parents whose children are in traditional public schools. Importantly, however, we conclude that the charter school parents whose children are enrolled in predominantly white charter schools are more satisfied than those whose children are in predominantly minority charter schools. Although we have no way to test explicitly for motivation, this difference in apparent satisfaction is consistent with the view that many white parents are using the charter schools, at least in part, to avoid more racially diverse traditional public schools