Greater Urban Density Would Lead to Better, Diverse Schools


Over the past year or so, economists Ed GlaeserRyan Avent, and Matthew Yglesias have published books that highlight the social and economic benefits of reducing land-use restrictions. Not only would this policy allow for more density, it would also benefit the education system. 

Chris Tessone of the Thomas B. Ford Institute touched on in a recent blogpost: "Higher density also means more kinds of schools can open in a given neighborhood, each serving their own market: arts-intensive schools, STEM-focused schools, schools with values-based programs, and so forth."

Land-use restrictions limit the supply of housing, causing prices to go up, resulting in a dearth of affordable housing in the areas where restrictions are the most prevalent. In his recent book, The Rent is Too Damn High, Yglesias argues that, in turn, these policies restrict neighborhoods' diversity by effectively pricing out poor and minority citizens. Undoing these policies would likely result in more integrated neighborhoods. 

I've previously argued on PolicyMic that specialized schools would improve the secondary school system. In the current education model, students are grouped by age — not by ability, interest, or learning style. As a result, the teachers have to adapt their instruction to fit their students' varying learning abilities so they may learn effectively. 

This system is incredibly inefficient. Differentiating at the school level — giving parents and children some degree of choice in what they learn and how they learn it — would be a better system. This would result in greater satisfaction levels for teachers, who will do less planning. This would also promote interest and engagement among students in their studies. It also means that students who benefit from hands-on, practical learning will be able to do so. 

In rural areas, the one-size-fits-all secondary education system is necessary because the population is not large enough to support a range of schools. (Virtual schooling may be a solution to geographical barriers to differentiation.) In cities, it is possible to some extent, but land-use restrictions discourage the potential for a secondary education system that is rich, diverse, and meets the needs of children and families. 

Photo Credit: Just_Tom