2023/01: Place-based policies: Opportunity for deprived schools or zone-and-shame effect?
Even though place-based policies involve large transfers toward low-income neighborhoods, they may also produce territorial stigmatization. This paper appeals to the quasi-experimental discontinuity in a French reform that redrew the zoning map of subsidized neighborhoods on the basis of a sharp poverty cut-off to assess the effect of place-based policies on school enrollment into lower secondary education. Using a difference-in-differences approach, we find strong evidence of stigma from policy designation, as public middle schools in neighbourhoods below the policy cut-off, which qualified for place-based subsidies, saw a significant 3.5pp post-reform drop in pupil enrollment, compared to their counterfactual analogues in unlabeled areas lying just above the poverty threshold. This «zone-and-shame» effect is immediate but does not persist, as it is only found for the first pupil-entry cohort in middle schools immediately after the reform. We show that it was triggered by the behavioral reactions of parents from all socioeconomic backgrounds, who avoided public schools in policy areas and shifted to those in other areas or, only for richer parents, to private schools. We uncover, on the contrary, only weak evidence of stigma reversion after an area loses its designation, suggesting hysteresis in bad reputations.