Open competition or balkanized coexistence? The effects of market segments on Toronto private schools


  • Roger Pizarro Milian University of Toronto
  • Scott Davies University of Toronto



private schools, economic sociology, markets, Toronto


For over 25 years, school choice advocates have argued that market competition drives educational organizations to become more differentiated and technically-oriented. However, empirical research has only partially supported this view, observing such outcomes only under certain conditions. To better understand the contingent nature of market effects within education, we draw on sociological and organizational theories that emphasize the ‘embeddedness’ of economic behavior. We test this idea using data from all private schools in Toronto, Canada, a strategic setting that approximates a ‘pure’ market by being mostly free of public governance. We find that, net of factors like school size and age, market segment is associated with the presence of a variety of organizational features. In conclusion, we ponder ways that institutional norms and community ties not only buffer schools from market forces, but also, infuse consumer preferences.


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Author Biographies

Roger Pizarro Milian, University of Toronto

Roger Pizarro Milian is currently a Visiting Researcher at the Centre for the Study of Canadian and International Higher Education (CIHE), housed within the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). His research interests are in organization studies, sociology of education and social stratification.

Scott Davies, University of Toronto

Scott Davies is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Data, Equity and Policy in Education at University of Toronto. He was previously Professor of Sociology and Ontario Research Chair at McMaster University. His speciality is sociology of education, focusing on inequalities in student outcomes, varieties of educational organizations, and trajectories of student achievement over several years. He is co-author of three editions of The Schooled Society and co-editor of the forthcoming Education in a New Society (University of Chicago Press). He is currently developing a SSHRC partnership grant proposal that aims to link a variety of government and non-profit organizations to conduct policy-relevant on educational transitions.




How to Cite

Pizarro Milian, R., & Davies, S. (2017). Open competition or balkanized coexistence? The effects of market segments on Toronto private schools. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 25, 39.



School Diversification and Dilemmas across Canada