Who Has Access to Charter Schools?

Logo of the Hamilton Project
Lauren Bauer, Megan Mumford and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach; The Brooking Institute
17 Mar, 2016

The Brookings Institute’s Hamilton Project presents an economic analysis looking at access to charter schools at a market level to measure the share of students who live close enough to a charter school as to have the choice to attend a charter school or not. Nationwide, 32.4 percent of students in states have local access to a charter school—defined as living in the same zip code tabulation area (ZCTA) as a charter school.5 This analysis documents that access to charter schools has grown over the past two decades and access to charter schools differs dramatically across states. While the vast majority of states—41 in all—have at least one charter school, states and localities vary widely in the extent to which students have access to charter schools and thus school choice. An accompanying interactive state map breaks out access by year and race/ethnicity.

The study found that Hispanic and African-American students had substantially higher access to charter schools than white or Asian students in nearly every state, suggesting that charter schools tend to open in areas where these racial populations are more highly concentrated.