Theses Doctoral

The effect of transit improvements on school choice

Colin Pescina, Jorge Ubaldo

The dissertation investigates the effect of the new bus rapid transit lines on school choice at the high school level in Mexico City. Since 1996 all public high schools in the Mexico City metropolitan area have an open enrollment policy based on the result of a common test and the stated preferences of students on what school they wish to attend. I raise four questions: 1) Are students applying to public high schools that are in line with their academic potential? 2) Is the time required to commute to school a determinant factor in the students’ choice of high school? 3) Can improving access to public transit modify the set of schools to which students apply in their senior high school application process? And 4) What effects do the transit improvements have on students’ allocated school? The time difference in the introduction of four new bus rapid transit lines is used as source of variation to mass transit availability. A difference in difference technique is used to compare these groups across time. I find that about one of every five students in Mexico City in the last 12 years was allocated to a school below her academic capability potentially damaging her future performance (under-matching). This is most prevalent among students from low income areas where academic attainment is low. Transit improvements led students living in areas that previously had little access to transit to apply to schools that were farther from home. The greater benefits are for students in the middle and lower part of the academic distribution. Transit improvements decrease the level of under-matching for these students. Students in wealthier areas see the quality of their school peers decrease after transit lines start operations. The same happens for high achievement students from low to middle income areas. I carefully document with maps how transit modified the location of schools to which the students applied and also to which school they were allocated. The findings highlight an equity dimension of transit availability as a mean to access quality education and a fundamental element to exercise school choice.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Economics and Education
Thesis Advisors
Levin, Henry M.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 12, 2015