Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Urban Sociology

Robert Vief

Dissertation Project (ongoing)

School choice as strategic place-based resource in Berlin. The interdependence between institutional arrangements, pro-active parents and residential segregation pattern and its effect on social stratification in Berlin’s educational system

Research Interests:
  • school and neighborhood segregation

  • neighborhood effects

  • access to resources in the city


Policy makers and school administrators often consider school segregation as an inevitable outcome of rising residential segregation and do not promote school desegregation policies to equalize school quality and educational opportunities. Evident from such arguments is the common assumption that school and residential segregation are practically identical. Sparse research exists about the imbalance between both phenomena.

This dissertation asks how school-neighborhood segregation gaps (SNSG) contribute to the stratification in the educational system. In a first step, it analyzes how specific segregational dynamics lead to the fact that schools in specific neighborhoods are in stronger imbalance to their neighborhoods’ characteristics than others. In a second step, it tries to unveil, on the one hand, how parents navigate the zoning system and limited school choice possibilities for Berlin’s elementary schools and, on the other hand, how schools and other relevant institutions shape SNSGs in specific neighborhood contexts. Finally, this work aims to answer the question through what kind of mechanisms the children in over- and under-concentrated schools are put at a (dis)advantage.

The dissertation follows a mixed-methods approach. I will use quantitative school data from the Senatsverwaltung für Bildung, Jugend und Familie, geospatial neighborhood data and survey data from representative surveys in four neighborhoods in Berlin – as well as qualitative interviews with parents and school representatives from schools with strong SNSGs in Berlin.


Mail: robert.vief[at]