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Do vouchers lead to sorting under random private-school selection? Evidence from the Milwaukee voucher program

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  • Rajashri Chakrabarti

Abstract

This paper analyzes the effect of school vouchers on student sorting--defined as a flight to private schools by high-income and committed public-school students--and whether vouchers can be designed to reduce or eliminate it. Much of the existing literature investigates sorting in cases where private schools can screen students. However, publicly funded U.S. voucher programs require a private school to accept all students unless it is oversubscribed and to pick students randomly if it is oversubscribed. This paper focuses on two crucial requirements of the Milwaukee voucher program: 1) private schools must select students randomly and 2) private schools must accept the voucher amount as full tuition payment (that is, "topping up" of vouchers is not permitted). Using a theoretical model, this study argues that random selection alone cannot prevent student sorting. However, random selection together with the absence of topping up can preclude sorting by income, although there is still sorting by ability. Sorting by ability is not caused here by private-school selection, but rather by parental self-selection. Using a logit model and student-level data from the first five years of the Milwaukee voucher program, 1990-94, this study establishes that random selection has indeed taken place, providing an appropriate setting for testing the corresponding theoretical predictions in the data. Next, using several alternative logit specifications, it demonstrates that these predications are validated empirically. These findings appear to have important policy implications.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of New York in its series Staff Reports with number 379.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:379

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Keywords: Educational vouchers ; School choice ; Private schools ; Public schools ; Income;

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References

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  1. Hsieh, Chang-Tai & Urquiola, Miguel, 2006. "The effects of generalized school choice on achievement and stratification: Evidence from Chile's voucher program," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(8-9), pages 1477-1503, September.
  2. David E. Campbell & Martin R. West & Paul E. Peterson, 2005. "Participation in a national, means-tested school voucher program," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(3), pages 523-541.
  3. Eric J. Brunner & Jennifer Imazeki & Stephen L. Ross, 2010. "Universal Vouchers and Racial and Ethnic Segregation," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(4), pages 912-927, November.
  4. Dennis Epple & Richard Romano & Holger Sieg, 2006. "Admission, Tuition, and Financial Aid Policies in the Market for Higher Education," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(4), pages 885-928, 07.
  5. Rajashri Chakrabarti, 2005. "Can Increasing Private School Participation and Monetary Loss in a Voucher Program Affect Public School Performance? Evidence from Milwaukee," Public Economics 0512003, EconWPA.
  6. Levin, Henry M., 1991. "The economics of educational choice," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 137-158, June.
  7. Levin, Henry M., 1992. "Market approaches to education: Vouchers and school choice," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 279-285, December.
  8. Epple, Dennis & Romano, Richard E, 1998. "Competition between Private and Public Schools, Vouchers, and Peer-Group Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 33-62, March.
  9. William G. Howell, 2004. "Dynamic selection effects in means-tested, urban school voucher programs," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(2), pages 225-250.
  10. Epple, Dennis & Figlio, David & Romano, Richard, 2004. "Competition between private and public schools: testing stratification and pricing predictions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1215-1245, July.
  11. Figlio, David & Hart, Cassandra M.D. & Metzger, Molly, 2010. "Who uses a means-tested scholarship, and what do they choose?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 301-317, April.
  12. Dennis Epple & Richard Romano, 2002. "Educational Vouchers and Cream Skimming," NBER Working Papers 9354, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Holger Sieg & Dennis Epple & Richard Romano, 2003. "Peer effects, financial aid and selection of students into colleges and universities: an empirical analysis," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(5), pages 501-525.
  14. Maria Marta Ferreyra, 2007. "Estimating the Effects of Private School Vouchers in Multidistrict Economies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 789-817, June.
  15. Caroline Minter Hoxby, 2003. "School Choice and School Productivity. Could School Choice Be a Tide that Lifts All Boats?," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of School Choice, pages 287-342 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Dalton Conley & Rebecca Glauber, 2006. "Parental Educational Investment and Children’s Academic Risk: Estimates of the Impact of Sibship Size and Birth Order from Exogenous Variation in Fertility," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(4).
  17. Henry M. Levin, 1998. "Educational vouchers: Effectiveness, choice, and costs," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(3), pages 373-392.
  18. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Miguel Urquiola, 2003. "When Schools Compete, How Do They Compete? An Assessment of Chile's Nationwide School Voucher Program," NBER Working Papers 10008, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Rajashri Chakrabarti, 2008. "Impact of voucher design on public school performance: evidence from Florida and Milwaukee voucher programs," Staff Reports 315, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

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