Demographics of parents interviewed about choice of secondary school

The table below provides some detail as to the level diversity of the interviewed parents.  It is important to note that the focus of the study was to explore and understand the decision architecture of how parents choose a school for their children.  Consequently, a degree of priority was given to finding parents who had switched schools from public to private (independent/Catholic) or from private to public in the transition from primary to secondary schooling.


Non-Catholic private schools in Australia are called ‘independent schools’ because these schools (particularly the elite schools) govern, manage, resource and finance themselves independently of any broader religious or philanthropic affiliation.

In contrast, Catholic schools are managed, financed and resourced centrally in a manner broadly similar to government run public schools but with higher levels of community involvement and direct fee payment associated with the choice of school. While there has been a trend for Independent secondary schools to move from single sex to co-educational, Catholic secondary schools in the metropolitan cities by and large are single sex schools.

Choice of government public school is directly related to where you live with ‘selection’ defined by ‘catchment zones’.  Consequently as parents compete for residential homes within the catchment zones of public schools with superior academic outcomes, the price of homes closer to ‘higher quality’ schools increase relative homes in the zones of ‘lesser quality’ schools.  ‘Quality’ tends to be equated with completion rates, acceptance to university and nationwide testing such as NAPLAN in Australia.  The relationship between residential house prices and the quality of neighbouring schools has been well researched, starting with Black’s seminal 1999 paper “Do better schools matter? Parental valuation of elementary education“. A similar study by Davidoff & Leigh (2008) found that house prices in Canberra increased by 3.5% for each 5% increase in a neighbouring school’s average test scores.  This paper also has a very useful table summarising previous literature and the test measures used to define ‘quality’.  However in contrast to the USA, Australian schools are universally funded by the federal government on a per student basis (-/+ equity adjustments) and not as a result of local taxes (such as property taxes).

Selective Public schools are government operated schools with selective criteria other than place of residence.  Selection criteria maybe academic, sporting, artistic, technical or musical.  In Australia, academically selective government public schools perform materially & consistently better on final year secondary university entrance scores than their elite private school colleagues. The elite private schools in turn perform materially & consistently better than non-selective government public schools.


Black, S. E. (1999). Do better schools matter? Parental valuation of elementary education. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 114(2), 577-599.

Davidoff, I., & Leigh, A. (2008). How Much do Public Schools Really Cost? Estimating the Relationship between House Prices and School Quality*. Economic Record, 84(265), 193-206.

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