Lotteries will not raise the likelihood of young children from less affluent homes getting places in popular schools, researchers have suggested.
Poorer parents were more likely to walk to school
Parents had neither a car nor the time to take them any distance to school, Newcastle University academics found.
Middle-class families did - and were more likely to have the motivation to take up places in non-local schools.
The study also found that almost all the parents interviewed had been happy with the process of choosing a school.
"This contrasts with the frequent media coverage of parental anxiety to secure a place in a 'good' school," their report said.
The study - the results of which have not yet been published - was carried out by Dr Helen Jarvis and Dr Seraphim Alvanides.
It focused on primary schools but they believe the findings would apply equally to secondary schools.
The lottery issue has been highlighted by the decision of Brighton and Hove Council to use such a system as a tie-break in allocating places at over-subscribed schools within their catchment areas.
Dr Jarvis said: "Our research suggests that lotteries of over-subscribed school places would produce the worst of both worlds - greater educational polarisation and longer, more environmentally damaging car journeys to distant schools by middle-class parents."
She said it was interesting that Labour-controlled Brighton was proposing it on the grounds of fairness and equality of opportunity, when this research suggested it might have exactly the opposite result.
She and Dr Alvanides looked at 50 primary schools in Newcastle and selected two for intensive study, one in an affluent part of the city, the other in a deprived area.
They worked closely with 10 families from one school and eight from the other.
All but two of the 18 had been allocated a place at their "first choice" school.
None of the poorer families owned a car and walked their children to school, whereas most of the affluent families had two cars and drove there.
When preparing their applications almost all the poorer families had visited just one school, their priority being a "happy child". They paid little heed to future secondary school transfers.
The better-off families had visited two or more, some going to five or more - including private schools - in their search for a "good school". They spent a lot on after-school activities.
The researchers believe they have uncovered significant lessons, most importantly on "the false view that policy makers have of the way parents in different walks of life make choices (assuming they have choices to make) about their children's education".