Defining (and Denying) Diversity Through Interdistrict Choice

Kara S. Finnigan, Burke Scarbrough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Interdistrict choice programs are among the few policy mechanisms that work against segregation and inequality in the United States, but little research has examined these. This qualitative study examines one collaborative, analyzing how stakeholders' understandings of the program's purpose influence program decisions. It involves document review, observations, and interviews (n = 65). Our analysis suggests that different rationales for "diversity" are driving implementation today than those that undergirded its inception. A shift to "instrumental" rationales limits systemic orientations toward regional inequity by narrowly defining diversity and, ultimately, denying access to many students of Color who apply to cross district boundaries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)142-162
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of School Choice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank the Governing Board of the Urban-Suburban Interdistrict Transfer Program for their ongoing support and partnership, as well as the Program Administrators and all of the many administrators and stakeholders who shared their time with us through this study. We would also like to thank the Ford Foundation for their support for this research. The views in this article are solely those of the authors and do not represent or reflect the views of these other groups.


  • desegregation policy
  • diversity
  • equity
  • interdistrict choice
  • school choice


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