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School Vouchers: A Survey of the Economics Literature

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  • Dennis Epple
  • Richard E. Romano
  • Miguel Urquiola

Abstract

We review the theoretical, computational, and empirical research on school vouchers, with a focus on the latter. Our assessment is that the evidence to date is not sufficient to warrant recommending that vouchers be adopted on a widespread basis; however, multiple positive findings support continued exploration. Specifically, the empirical research on small-scale programs does not suggest that awarding students a voucher is a systematically reliable way to improve educational outcomes, and some detrimental effects have been found. Nevertheless, in some settings, or for some subgroups or outcomes, vouchers can have a substantial positive effect on those who use them. Studies of large-scale voucher programs find student sorting as a result of their implementation, although of varying magnitude. Evidence on both small-scale and large-scale programs suggests that competition induced by vouchers leads public schools to improve. Moreover, research is making progress on understanding how vouchers may be designed to limit adverse effects from sorting, while preserving positive effects related to competition. Finally, our sense is that work originating in a single case (e.g., a given country) or in a single research approach (e.g., experimental designs) will not provide a full understanding of voucher effects; fairly wide-ranging empirical and theoretical work will be necessary to make progress.

Suggested Citation

  • Dennis Epple & Richard E. Romano & Miguel Urquiola, 2017. "School Vouchers: A Survey of the Economics Literature," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 55(2), pages 441-492, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jeclit:v:55:y:2017:i:2:p:441-92
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jel.20150679
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    Cited by:

    1. Pilar (P.) Garcia-Gomez & Helena M Hernandez-Pizarro & Guillem Lopez-Casasnovas & Joaquim Vidiella-Martin, 2019. "Unravelling Hidden Inequities in a Universal Public Long-Term Care System," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 19-011/V, Tinbergen Institute.
    2. repec:pal:eurjdr:v:30:y:2018:i:4:d:10.1057_s41287-017-0083-6 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Hinnerich, Björn Tyrefors & Vlachos, Jonas, 2017. "The impact of upper-secondary voucher school attendance on student achievement. Swedish evidence using external and internal evaluations," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 1-14.
    4. Fabre, Anaïs & Straub, Stéphane, 2019. "The Economic Impact of public private partnerships (PPPs) in Infrastructure, Health and Education: A Review," TSE Working Papers 19-986, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    5. Richard J. Murnane & Marcus R. Waldman & John B. Willett & Maria Soledad Bos & Emiliana Vegas, 2017. "The Consequences of Educational Voucher Reform in Chile," NBER Working Papers 23550, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Gajardo, Felipe & Grau, Nicolás, 2019. "Competition among schools and educational quality: Tension between various objectives of educational policy," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 123-133.
    7. repec:eee:ecoedu:v:58:y:2017:i:c:p:86-107 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Miguel Urquiola, 2015. "Progress and challenges in achieving an evidence-based education policy in Latin America and the Caribbean," Latin American Economic Review, Springer;Centro de Investigaciòn y Docencia Económica (CIDE), vol. 24(1), pages 1-30, December.
    9. Andrabi, Tahir & Das, Jishnu & Khwaja, Asim Ijaz & Ozyurt, Selcuk & Singh, Niharika, 2018. "Upping the Ante: The Equilibrium Effects of Unconditional Grants to Private Schools," Working Paper Series rwp18-019, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    10. Tomori, Françeska, 2018. "Mixed Duopoly in Education with Vouchers," Working Papers 2072/306548, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H52 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Education
    • H75 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Government: Health, Education, and Welfare
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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