Marketing schools: Consumer goods and competitive incentives for consumer information

Christopher Lubienski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Effective school-choice plans depend on the quality of information available to families. Examining the promotional materials provided by different schools in a highly competitive and diverse urban area tells us not only about the quality of that information but also how schools respond to competitive incentives. This analysis outlines an economic theory of goods as a framework for understanding information, focusing on the essential "search," "experience," and "credence" qualities of promotional materials. The information made available to families through commercial-style materials challenges the notion of parents making reasoned choices based on institutional effectiveness. Instead, more emotional themes and images dominate school marketing strategies, with implications for ethnic and socioeconomic sorting within diverse but competitive climates. Promotional strategies suggest that competition is creating an environment in which, rather than responding to incentives intended to improve education for more disadvantaged students, schools are instead attracting better performing students through their marketing campaigns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-141
Number of pages24
JournalEducation and Urban Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 2007


  • Charter schools
  • Competition
  • Family information
  • School choice
  • School marketing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Urban Studies


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