Placing educational inequalities: Socio-spatial strategies for access to primary education


Education is the most crucial factor in facilitating social mobility but may also play a major role in the reproduction of social inequalities. A wide body of sociological literature addresses the question of how parents strategically use different resources to gain access to desired education. Geographic studies stress the central role of neighbourhood for access to education. This project will integrate sociological and geographical perspectives on educational inequalities by studying how parents of disparate ethnic and social class backgrounds develop different socio-spatial strategies to secure access to 'good' schools.
The main question of this research project is:

How can educational inequalities be explained through the socio-spatial strategies of school choice of different groups of parents?

To address this question I will draw on the case of primary schools in the Netherlands.
In the educational landscape of the Netherlands, parents have the freedom to select any school and economic resources do not play a significant role for access to education. Nonetheless, educational inequalities in the Netherlands are significant and school segregation is high.
I will employ a mixed methods approach, combining advanced statistical techniques, using longitudinal individual register data (SSD) and unique new data on school selection, with self-sampled survey and in-depth interview data to research how residential mobility and school choice are related (RQ1); and understand the mechanisms by which they are interconnected (RQ2). By explicitly comparing the socio-spatial strategies of 1) working class and middle class parents; and 2) native-Dutch and of non-native parents I will establish how successful access to primary education is differentiated by class and ethnicity (RQ3).


Project number


Main applicant

Dr. W.R. Boterman

Affiliated with

Universiteit van Amsterdam, Faculteit der Maatschappij- en Gedragswetenschappen, Urban Geographies/Urban Studies

Team members

Dr. W.R. Boterman