Unwrapping the Suburban "Package Deal": Race, Class, and School Access
Large disparities in educational quality exist between cities and surrounding suburban school districts and are increasing between suburban districts—a trend that emerged over the past several decades and shows signs of growing. Using in-depth interviews, this study examines how children are sorted into different school districts across a metropolitan area. We find that the ideal educational arrangement for nearly all parents is to live in a neighborhood that guarantees access to neighborhood schools that meets their expectations, something we call the “package deal.” Parents look to the suburbs to achieve this ideal, but not all suburbs provide it. Metropolitan patterns of racial residential segregation, interact with families’ resources and constraints to reproduce racial inequalities in educational opportunities across suburban districts. Integrated approaches to housing and education policy are needed to address parents’ preference to couple residential and school choices and reduce growing suburban inequality.