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Center for Policy Research

Working Paper

Using Pupil Transportation Data to Explore Educational Inequities and Outcomes: A Case Study from New York City

Sarah Cordes, Samantha Trajkovski, Christopher Rick, Meryle Weinstein, and Amy Ellen Schwartz

C.P.R. Working Paper No. 243

June 2021


This article explores how researchers can use pupil transportation data to explore key questions about the role of transportation in educational access and equity, such as how students get to school and the effect of transportation on student outcomes. We first describe different sources of transportation data that are available to researchers, provide a brief review of relevant literature, and discuss potential sources of measurement error in pupil transportation data. Next, we use administrative data from New York City to illustrate how pupil transportation data can be used to understand transportation eligibility and assignment as well as to describe the characteristics of students’ commutes to school. For example, we find that not all students assigned for free transportation take it up. Specifically, although 47 percent of K-12 students in 2017 were eligible for pupil transportation based on distance with another 9 percent of students receiving exceptions, only 45 percent of students were assigned to a full-fare MetroCard, general education bus, or special education bus. Further, we find the average commute to school for walkers and bus riders is quite similar—around 30 minutes—although there is wide variation as some students experience very short or very long commutes. We end with a discussion of the importance of the institutional context when conducting research using pupil transportation data and best practices when using administrative data

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