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School Choice and Student Performance: Are Private Schools Really Better?

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  • D. N. Figlio
  • J. A. Stone

Abstract

Are private schools really better than public schools, or is it simply that better students attend private schools? Although a number of recent studies find that students perform better in private schools (more specifically, Catholic schools), others do not. Typically, however, the instruments used to adjust for nonrandom selection are weak. This study employs uniquely detailed local instruments and jointly models selection into religious and nonreligious private high schools, relative to public high schools—improving instrument power in predicting private sector attendance to roughly three times that of prior studies. Failing to correct adequately for selection leads to a systematic upward bias in the estimated treatment effect for religious schools, but a downward bias for nonreligious private schools. With adequate correction, religious schools are modestly inferior in mathematics and science, while nonreligious schools are substantially superior. However, minority students, particularly in urban areas, benefit from religious schools. Other factors that may make both religious and nonreligious private schools attractive include possibly better retention rates, increased security and discipline, and greater opportunities for a variety of specialized school-day and extracurricular activities.

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Paper provided by University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty in its series Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers with number 1141-97.

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Handle: RePEc:wop:wispod:1141-97

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Cited by:
  1. Mancebón-Torrubia, María Jesús & Ximénez-de-Embún, Domingo Pérez, 2009. "Spanish publicly-subsidised private schools and equality of school choice," MPRA Paper 21164, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Thomas J. Nechyba, 1999. "A Model of Multiple Districts and Private Schools: The Role of Mobility, Targeting, and Private School Vouchers," NBER Working Papers 7239, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Mancebón-Torrubia, María-Jesús & Calero, Jorge & Choi, Álvaro & Ximénez-de-Embún, Domingo P., 2010. "Efficiency of public and publicly-subsidised high schools in Spain. Evidence from PISA 2006," MPRA Paper 21165, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. María J. Luengo Prado & Oscar Volij, 1999. "Public Education, Communities, and Vouchers," Economic theory and game theory 008, Oscar Volij.
  5. William Duncombe & John Yinger, 2001. "Does School Consolidation Cut Costs?," Center for Policy Research Working Papers 33, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
  6. Gilpin, Gregory A., 2011. "Reevaluating the effect of non-teaching wages on teacher attrition," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 598-616, August.
  7. Patrick Bayer & Robert McMillan, 2005. "Choice and Competition in Local Education Markets," NBER Working Papers 11802, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Green, Colin P. & Navarro-Paniagua, María & Ximénez-de-Embún, Domingo P. & Mancebón, María-Jesús, 2014. "School choice and student wellbeing," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 139-150.
  9. Bedi, Arjun S. & Garg, Ashish, 2000. "The effectiveness of private versus public schools: the case of Indonesia," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 463-494, April.
  10. Goldhaber, Dan D. & Brewer, Dominic J. & Eide, Eric R. & Rees, Daniel I., 1999. "Testing for sample selection in the Milwaukee school choice experiment," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 259-267, April.
  11. Giorgio Brunello & Lorenzo Rocco, 2005. "Educational Standards in Private and Public Schools," CESifo Working Paper Series 1418, CESifo Group Munich.
  12. Aksoy, Tevfik & Link, Charles R., 2000. "A panel analysis of student mathematics achievement in the US in the 1990s: does increasing the amount of time in learning activities affect math achievement?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 261-277, June.
  13. Ragnvid, Beatrice Schindler, 2003. "Evaluating Private School Quality in Denmark," Working Papers 03-2, University of Aarhus, Aarhus School of Business, Department of Economics.
  14. Thomas J. Nechyba, 2000. "Mobility, Targeting, and Private-School Vouchers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 130-146, March.
  15. Brunello, Giorgio & Rocco, Lorenzo, 2004. "Diploma No Problem: Can Private Schools Be of Lower Quality than Public Schools?," IZA Discussion Papers 1336, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  16. William Sander, 2000. "Parochial Schools and Student Achievement: Findings for Older Adults," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(3), pages 259-268.
  17. MANCEBÓN TORRUBIA, María Jesús & PÉREZ XIMÉNEZ-DE-EMBÚN, Domingo, 2010. "Una Valoracion Del Grado De Segregación Socioeconómica Existente En El Sistema Educativo Español. Un Analisis Por Comunidades Autonómas A Partir De Pisa 2006," Regional and Sectoral Economic Studies, Euro-American Association of Economic Development, vol. 10(3).
  18. Lonnie Stevans & David Sessions, 2000. "Private/Public School Choice and Student Performance Revisited," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(2), pages 169-184.

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