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The Aggregate Effect of School Choice: Evidence from a Two-stage Experiment in India

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  • Karthik Muralidharan
  • Venkatesh Sundararaman

Abstract

We present experimental evidence on the impact of a school choice program in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh (AP) that featured a unique two-stage lottery-based allocation of school vouchers that created both a student-level and a market-level experiment. This design allows us to study both the individual and the aggregate effects of school choice (including spillovers). We find that private-school teachers have lower levels of formal education and training than public-school teachers, and are paid much lower salaries. On the other hand, private schools have a longer school day, a longer school year, smaller class sizes, lower teacher absence, higher teaching activity, and better school hygiene. After two and four years of the program, we find no difference between the test scores of lottery winners and losers on math and Telugu (native language). However, private schools spend significantly less instructional time on these subjects, and use the extra time to teach more English, Science, Social Studies, and Hindi. Averaged across all subjects, lottery winners score 0.13σ higher, and students who attend private schools score 0.23σ higher. We find no evidence of spillovers on public-school students who do not apply for the voucher, or on students who start out in private schools to begin with, suggesting that the program had no adverse effects on these groups. Finally, the mean cost per student in the private schools in our sample is less than a third of the cost in public schools. Our results suggest that private schools in this setting deliver (slightly) better test score gains than their public counterparts, and do so at substantially lower costs per student. More generally, our results highlight that ignoring heterogeneity among schools' instructional programs and patterns of time use may lead to incorrect inference on the impact of school choice on learning outcomes.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19441.

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Date of creation: Sep 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19441

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  1. Jishnu Das & Stefan Dercon & James Habyarimana & Pramila Krishnan & Karthik Muralidharan & Venkatesh Sundararaman, 2013. "School Inputs, Household Substitution, and Test Scores," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 29-57, April.
  2. Mehtabul Azam & Aimee Chin & Nishith Prakash, 2010. "The Returns to English-Language Skills in India," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 1002, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  3. Will Dobbie & Roland G. Fryer, 2011. "Are High-Quality Schools Enough to Increase Achievement among the Poor? Evidence from the Harlem Children's Zone," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 158-87, July.
  4. Nicholas Bloom & John Van Reenen, 2010. "Why Do Management Practices Differ across Firms and Countries?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 24(1), pages 203-24, Winter.
  5. Tessa Bold, Mwangi Kimenyi, Germano Mwabu, Justin Sandefur, 2011. " The High Return to Private Schooling in a Low-Income Country- Working Paper 279," Working Papers, Center for Global Development 279, Center for Global Development.
  6. Joshua Angrist & Eric Bettinger & Erik Bloom & Elizabeth King & Michael Kremer, 2002. "Vouchers for Private Schooling in Colombia: Evidence from a Randomized Natural Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1535-1558, December.
  7. Julie Berry Cullen & Brian A Jacob & Steven Levitt, 2006. "The Effect of School Choice on Participants: Evidence from Randomized Lotteries," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 74(5), pages 1191-1230, 09.
  8. Atila Abdulkadiroglu & Joshua Angrist & Susan Dynarski & Thomas J. Kane & Parag Pathak, 2009. "Accountability and Flexibility in Public Schools: Evidence from Boston's Charters and Pilots," NBER Working Papers 15549, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak & Mark Rosenzweig, 2014. "Risk, Insurance and Wages in General Equilibrium," NBER Working Papers 19811, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Karthik Muralidharan & Venkatesh Sundararaman, 2013. "Contract Teachers: Experimental Evidence from India," NBER Working Papers 19440, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Pal, Sarmistha & Saha, Bibhas, 2014. "In 'Trusts' We Trust: Socially Motivated Private Schools in Nepal," IZA Discussion Papers 8270, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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