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Suburban historians have generally neglected the role of schools as an explanatory factor in the transformation of twentieth-century U.S. metropolitan space, since public education does not fit neatly into their narrative. At the same time, educational historians have focused so intently on the rise and decline of big-city school systems that they have largely failed to account for suburbanization. This article seeks to bridge the gap by examining the rising practice of “shopping for schools,” the buying and selling of private homes to gain access to more desirable public school attendance zones. This case study of three communities near Hartford, Connecticut,traces the convergence of real estate interests, suburban homebuyers, and government officials, particularly as the postwar labor market increasingly rewarded higher levels of educational attainment. Shopping for schools not only brings together educational credentialism and suburban consumerism but also helps to explain increasing stratification among suburbs in recent decades.


Submitted as part of the Cities, Suburbs, and Schools project for the On The Line web-book by Jack Dougherty and colleagues.

This paper represents the author's version. The final definitive version is available at

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