Choosing By Habitus: Multi-Case Study of Families & Schools in the Context of School Choice

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Choosing By Habitus: Multi-Case Study of Families & Schools in the Context of School Choice

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This qualitative multi-case study explores the dynamics among schools and families during the process of choosing a school through a social class lens and includes narrative data gathered from families and school professionals in four schools within one local commune of Chile. Findings illustrate that families and schools enacted social class through their habitus, Bourdieu’s concept of socialized norms or tendencies (and values) that guide behavior and thinking (Bourdieu, 1977). Three types of habitus emerge: historical, aspirational, and survival. In the case of families, habitus is expressed in the process of choosing a school. In the case of schools, staff members activate elements of their habitus in the ways they perceive and face the process of enrollment and recruitment of students. The study illuminates the ways in which social class moderates school choice by affecting not only families but also schools. Because schools have preferences in the type of families they seek and wish to retain, they reinforce the habitus of the families. The relationship between institutions and families points to the complex relationships among social class, social capital, identity, and educational institutions in a setting where choosing among different educational options is normative. Conclusions raise questions about; the role of habitus in the process of choosing a school, the influence of social class, through habitus, by impacting the ways families choose schools and schools recruit families; and the contribution of schools in social reproduction.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. April 2016. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisor: Karen Seashore. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 199 pages.

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Madrid Miranda, Romina. (2016). Choosing By Habitus: Multi-Case Study of Families & Schools in the Context of School Choice. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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