Sorting Into Neighborhoods and Schools: The Role of Density Regulations

Amrita Kulka , University of Wisconsin-Madison

Despite fierce battles over rezoning, the role of land use regulations in forming neighborhoods remains understudied. In a neighborhood-based school system, density regulations determine the composition of peers in public schools by sorting wealthy households into low-density areas and less wealthy households into high-density areas. What is the extent of this sorting? How might children’s test scores be affected if a small part of the school attendance area were rezoned to allow higher density? To answer these questions I first employ a boundary discontinuity design to study how mandated density affects neighborhood composition. Next, I estimate the effect of school peers' incomes on test scores using variation from a bussing policy. Putting these two effects together in a back of the envelope calculation suggests rezoning parts of school attendance areas can be highly beneficial to those expected to move there while only having small detrimental effects on the remaining children.

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 Presented in Session 125. The Nexus of Neighborhood and School Segregation