The idea that ethnic minority parents seek out schools with a racially similar intake is a myth, research by the Runnymede Trust suggests.
A study of 176 black and ethnic minority parents disproves the belief that increasing parental choice will automatically boost segregation.
Surveys and focus groups found that the majority of ethnic minority parents favoured schools with a good reputation, regardless of racial make-up.
Thirty-two percent even said they would steer clear of poorly performing schools with large ethnic minority populations.
"Aspirational black and south Asian parents tended to be nervous about sending their children, particularly young boys, to poorly performing schools with high ethnic minority populations," said Debbie Weekes-Bernard, senior policy research analyst.
Schools with white minorities were much more likely to reflect the surrounding neighbourhood than parental choice, the study concluded.
Only one parent said that fear of racial bullying motivated their child's choice of school.
Dr Weekes-Bernard said that Muslim parents overwhelmingly favoured faith schools.
"The 15 families we spoke to in focus groups said that if a Muslim state school opened in the area, they would send their children there like a shot. It was an issue of catering to their child's spiritual needs. Others talked about their children being able to wear the hijab and the veil," she said.