Study: Charter Schools Can Lead Families To Buy Homes Nearby

Photo credit: IDuke, via Wikimedia Commons.

In North Carolina, charter schools are not subject to school district boundaries and accept students regardless of where they live. But a new study finds that families with children enrolled at a charter school are likely to move closer to the school anyway. The finding may have relevance for urban renewal efforts.

“It’s long been understood that, in urban areas, people with school-age children will move to areas that have the best schools – if they can afford to do so,” says Dr. Bart Danielsen, an associate professor of business management at NC State and lead author of a paper on the study. “But charter schools are open to any student in the state. We wanted to see if the presence of a charter school made a community more attractive to home buyers.

“The answer appears to be that a community with a charter school does attract the families whose children are enrolled at that school,” Danielsen says. “The charter school is not just appealing, it actually draws people in. We found that these families moved much closer to the school than one might expect them to, even though they didn’t have to.”

The researchers looked at data from 12 years, covering all 662 families who had at least one child attending a K-12 charter school in Wake County, North Carolina. Specifically, the researchers tracked whether and where these families moved while their children attended the school.

The study found that 176 families moved, with the majority moving significantly closer to the school. And of the families who moved further away from the school, almost all of them moved less than a mile. The closer a family lived to the school, the less likely they were to move at all. A video illustration of the movement can be viewed at

What’s more, the study found that families were significantly more likely to move closer to the charter school than they were to move closer to parent workplaces. A follow-up survey found that families moved to the area because of the school, rather than applied to the school because they were moving to the area.

“This study only looked at families in one charter school,” Danielsen says. “However, the findings were exceptionally powerful and suggest that charter schools may be a good focal point for urban renewal efforts. In short, charter schools may be a good way to draw families back into urban communities and limit sprawl.”

Danielsen has a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to do additional work on the impact that charter schools for the arts have had in southern California.

The paper, “It Makes a Village: Residential Relocation after Charter School Admission,” is published in the journal Real Estate Economics. Co-authors include Dr. Jing Zhao, an assistant professor of business management at NC State, and Dr. David Harrison of Texas Tech University.


Note to Editors: The study abstract follows.

“It Makes a Village: Residential Relocation after Charter School Admission”

Authors: Bartley R. Danielsen and Jing Zhao, North Carolina State University; David M. Harrison, Texas Tech University

Published: online Nov. 27, Real Estate Economics

DOI: 10.1111/1540-6229.12074

Abstract: Although numerous studies investigate how student achievement is impacted by educational vouchers and charter schools, there appears to be no research on how these programs impact the surrounding environment. This study examines residential relocation of families whose children attend a charter school. We develop a conceptual model which predicts where relocating families are likely to move, given ex-ante distance and direction to the school. The model is parameterized using data from student mailing address changes. We find that families are almost twice as likely to relocate toward the school as would be expected if the school did not exert any attraction. Moreover, although families are not required to live near the school, the child’s school exerts a significantly stronger attraction than parent workplaces. This result may have important implications for mitigating urban sprawl, fostering urban renewal, and promoting sustainable real estate development.

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