London School of Economics Centre for the Economics of Education LSE
Centre for the Economics of Education  (CEE)

Abstract for:

Urban Density and Pupil Attainment

Steve  Gibbons,  Olmo  Silva,  May 2007
Paper No' CEEDP0080: | Full paper (pdf)
Save Reference as: BibTeX BibTeX File | Endote EndNote Import File
Keywords: Urban Density and Agglomeration; School Choice and Competition; Pupil Achievement

JEL Classification: I20; R20; J24;

Is hard copy/paper copy available? YES - Paper Copy Still In Print.
This Paper is published under the following series: CEE Discussion Papers
Share this page: Google Bookmarks Google Bookmarks | Facebook Facebook | Twitter Twitter


We explore the association between urban density and pupil attainment using three cohorts of pupils in schooling in England. Although – as widely recognised – attainment in dense urban places is low on average, this is not because urban environments disadvantage pupils, but because the most disadvantaged pupils with low average attainments attend the most urbanised schools. To control for this, we exploit changes in urban density faced by pupils during compulsory transition from Primary to Secondary school, and measure educational progress at the end of the Secondary phase, relative to attainments at the end of Primary schooling. Our results suggest that there are small but significant benefits from education in schools in more densely urbanised settings: Pupils in schools in relatively dense places – measured in terms of school density and other urban indicators – progress faster than others in their cohort, but the elasticity is low, at around 0.02. We detect this density advantage even amongst pupils moving relatively short distances between Primary and Secondary schools within urban areas, so we cannot attribute it to broad urbanisation effects experienced by pupils making rural-urban school moves. A more likely explanation lies in greater school choice and competition between closely co-located educational providers.