School-Choice Stories: The Role of Culture

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<p> This article uses data from in&hyphen;depth interviews conducted with the parents of a sample of 88 ninth&hyphen;grade students from public, private, Catholic, and Christian high schools in two different suburban communities. This research investigates the ways in which parents understand education and how they make sense of schooling options for their children. It shows both how families who choose schools make the selection among various alternatives and why some families seem not to choose schools. This research finds that the financial and information resources of families are not enough in and of themselves to explain school&hyphen;choice behavior. While these resources are indeed used by families as they make school choices, such measures do not capture the cultural dimension of school choice. In this context culture is understood as the lens through which people make sense of the social world. The decision to activate resources and the direction in which those resources will be activated are mediated by culture. In particular, as these school&hyphen;choice stories show, the school&hyphen;choice decision is influenced by the past educational experiences of the parents and by their religious faith.</p>
Original languageAmerican English
JournalSociological Inquiry
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004


  • Arts and Humanities
  • Sociology

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