Working Papers

Please email Peter for copies of these working papers:

Rich, Peter. “Race, Resources, and Test-Scores: What Schooling Characteristics Motivate the Housing Choices of White and Black Parents?” Working paper.

Does the racial composition of local schools impact where parents choose to live? Using a discrete choice model with geocoded household addresses from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, I compare where mobile parents and non-parents move and how their decisions vary by race and neighborhood characteristics. White parents are especially likely to sort into school districts and neighborhoods with mostly-white student populations. The behavior is independent of sorting by home-ownership and by neighborhoods’ average home size, cost, income, unemployment, poverty, and proximity to commercial districts. In contrast, black housing selection trends toward neighborhoods with integrated schools and does not vary between parents and non-parents. Crucially, school factors—poverty level, class size, per pupil funding, and test scores—fail to explain white parents’ distinct inclination toward neighborhoods with segregated white public schools. As white parents secure perceived educational advantages for their own children, they express and fortify a legacy of racial inequality.

Note: This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1519017. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.  Geographic crosswalks are available here.

Rich, Peter. “White Parental  Flight and Avoidance: Neighborhood Choices in the Era of School District Desegregation.” Working Paper.

Parents’ concerns about local schools may be a substantial force driving racial residential segregation in the post-Civil Rights Era, but direct causal evidence of school-related sorting has been sparse. This study merges mobility histories from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics with local school district data from 1968-1990 to analyze how micro-level residential choices changed in response to mandated school desegregation plans. Event history analyses reveal that desegregation plans triggered an extra 4.7 percent of white households to move from their local district, and that parents were the most responsive. A discrete choice analysis of neighborhood selection shows that mobile white parents were almost half as likely as mobile childless households to move into neighborhoods in desegregating districts; in the South, desegregation plans turned formerly attractive neighborhoods into unattractive options for young white parents, but in the non-South, white parents avoided neighborhoods in desegregating districts even before the plans were implemented. Local schooling conditions clearly affected white parents, whose distinctive flight and avoidance behavior contributed to a macro pattern of racial segregation between districts that prevails today.

Recipient of three American Sociological Association paper awards: the 2016 David Lee Stevenson Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Paper (Sociology of Education), the 2016 Outstanding Graduate Student Paper Award (Inequality, Poverty and Mobility), and the 2016 Graduate Student Paper Award (Sociology of Population).

Faber, Jacob and Peter Rich. “Financially Over-Extended: College Attendance as a Contributor to Foreclosures During the Great Recession.” Conditionally accepted at Demography.

Although subprime mortgage lending and unemployment were largely responsible for the wave of foreclosures during the Great Recession, additional sources of financial risk may have exacerbated the crisis. We hypothesize that many parents sending children to college were financially over-extended and vulnerable to foreclosure as the economy contracted. With commuting zone panel data from 2006 to 2011, we show that increasing rates of college attendance across the income distribution in one year predict a foreclosure rate increase in subsequent years, net of fixed characteristics and changes in employment, refinance debt, house prices, and 19-year-old population size. We find similar evidence of college-related foreclosure risk using longitudinal household data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Our findings uncover a previously overlooked dimension of the foreclosure crisis, and highlight mortgage insecurity as an inadvertent consequence of parental investment in higher education.

Note: This project was funded by a grant from the Russell Sage Foundation.


Rich, Peter, Jennifer Candipan, and Ann Owens. “Residential Segregation in the Era of Charter and Magnet School Expansion.” Working paper.

The traditional link between residential address and public school assignment has weakened in recent decades as magnet and charter schools, which draw students from many neighborhoods, have become increasingly popular alternatives. Little is known about how this proliferation of alternative school options has affected residential segregation within and between school districts. We evaluate changing black-white child residential segregation in metropolitan areas between 2000 and 2010, with special attention to varying geographic scales of segregation. Using multivariate fixed effects regression models, we find that charter and magnet school enrollment is associated with a moderate decrease in residential segregation, but only between neighborhoods within school districts and not across school district boundaries. The findings suggest that when some families have the option to enroll their children in schools outside of their own neighborhood—an option that facilitates segregated school sorting—they are paradoxically less likely to move into racially segregated neighborhoods. However, this dynamic has a limited impact on residential segregation overall due to the large proportion of residential segregation persisting between school districts.

Michelmore, Katherine and Peter Rich (equal authors). “Trajectories of Disadvantage: Predictors of Chronic Hardship and their Correlates with Education Outcomes.” Working paper.

Education and stratification researchers have long evaluated how policy and context affect unequal outcomes for low- versus high-income children. This literature has recently grown with the increasing availability of educational administrative data. However, a first-order question is whether children’s economic background can be appropriately measured when most data sources are limited to one variable—receipt of free or reduced price lunch. Using administrative survey data from Michigan and detailed economic survey data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we evaluate what can be learned by observing student subsidized lunch eligibility over time in a trajectory framework. We find six common patterns of childhood disadvantage trajectories, describe their underlying characteristics, and evaluate their associations with high school completion and college entry. Our analyses illustrate that even with limited administrative information, a trajectory approach enhances measurement of student background and reveals nuance in the relationship between economic disadvantage and educational attainment.