IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Are Educational Vouchers Only Redistributive?


  • Eric Bettinger
  • Michael Kremer
  • Juan E. Saavedra


It is unclear if vouchers increase educational productivity or are purely redistributive, benefiting recipients by giving them access to more desirable peers at others' expense. To examine this, we study an educational voucher programme in Colombia which allocated vouchers by lottery. Among voucher applicants to vocational schools, lottery winners were less likely to attend academic secondary schools and thus had peers with less desirable observable characteristics. Despite this, lottery winners had better educational outcomes. In this population, vouchers improved educational outcomes through channels beyond redistribution of desirable peers. We discuss potential channels which may explain the observed effects. Copyright © The Author(s). Journal compilation © Royal Economic Society 2010.

Suggested Citation

  • Eric Bettinger & Michael Kremer & Juan E. Saavedra, 2010. "Are Educational Vouchers Only Redistributive?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 120(546), pages 204-228, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecj:econjl:v:120:y:2010:i:546:p:f204-f228

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: link to full text
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hibbs, Douglas A, Jr & Locking, Hakan, 2000. "Wage Dispersion and Productive Efficiency: Evidence for Sweden," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(4), pages 755-782, October.
    2. Soskice, David, 1990. "Wage Determination: The Changing Role of Institutions in Advanced Industrialized Countries," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(4), pages 36-61, Winter.
    3. Ulph, A. M. & Ulph, D. T., 1994. "Labour markets and innovation: Ex-post bargaining," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 195-210, January.
    4. John Van Reenen, 1996. "The Creation and Capture of Rents: Wages and Innovation in a Panel of U. K. Companies," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(1), pages 195-226.
    5. Agell, Jonas, 1999. "On the Benefits from Rigid Labour Markets: Norms, Market Failures, and Social Insurance," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(453), pages 143-164, February.
    6. Brown, Charles & Medoff, James, 1978. "Trade Unions in the Production Process," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(3), pages 355-378, June.
    7. Justus Haucap & Christian Wey, 2002. "Unionization Structures and Firms' Incentives for Productivity Enhancing Investments," CIG Working Papers FS IV 02-10, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB), Research Unit: Competition and Innovation (CIG).
    8. Freeman, Richard & Schettkat, Ronald, 2001. "Skill Compression, Wage Differentials, and Employment: Germany vs the US," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 53(3), pages 582-603, July.
    9. Oswald, Andrew J, 1985. " The Economic Theory of Trade Unions: An Introductory Survey," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 87(2), pages 160-193.
    10. Moene, Karl Ove & Wallerstein, Michael, 1997. "Pay Inequality," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(3), pages 403-430, July.
    11. Rowthorn, R E, 1992. "Centralisation, Employment and Wage Dispersion," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 102(412), pages 506-523, May.
    12. Stephen Nickell, 1997. "Unemployment and Labor Market Rigidities: Europe versus North America," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 55-74, Summer.
    13. Andrea Bassanini & Ekkehard Ernst, 2002. "Labour Market Institutions, Product Market Regulation, and Innovation: Cross-Country Evidence," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 316, OECD Publishing.
    14. Menezes-Filho, Naercio & Van Reenen, John, 2003. "Unions and Innovation: A Survey of the Theory and Empirical Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 3792, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    15. Michael Burda & Michael Funke, 1993. "German trade unions after unification — Third degree wage discriminating monopolists?," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 129(3), pages 537-560, September.
    16. Oswald, Andrew J & Turnbull, Peter J, 1985. "Pay and Employment Determination in Britain: What Are Labour," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 1(2), pages 80-97, Summer.
    17. Menezes-Filho, Naercio & Ulph, David & Van Reenen, John, 1998. "The determination of R&D: Empirical evidence on the role of unions," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-5), pages 919-930, May.
    18. Haucap, Justus & Pauly, Uwe & Wey, Christian, 2001. "Collective wage setting when wages are generally binding An antitrust perspective," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 287-307, September.
    19. Agell, Jonas & Lommerud, Kjell Erik, 1993. " Egalitarianism and Growth," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 95(4), pages 559-579, December.
    20. Ulph, Alistair & Ulph, David, 1998. "Labour markets, bargaining and innovation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-5), pages 931-939, May.
    21. Connolly, Robert A & Hirsch, Barry T & Hirschey, Mark, 1986. "Union Rent Seeking, Intangible Capital, and Market Value of the Firm," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 68(4), pages 567-577, November.
    22. Bester, Helmut & Petrakis, Emmanuel, 1993. "The incentives for cost reduction in a differentiated industry," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 519-534.
    23. Grout, Paul A, 1984. "Investment and Wages in the Absence of Binding Contracts: A Nash Bargining Approach," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(2), pages 449-460, March.
    24. Robert J. Flanagan, 1999. "Macroeconomic Performance and Collective Bargaining: An International Perspective," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(3), pages 1150-1175, September.
    25. Kleinknecht, Alfred, 1998. "Is Labour Market Flexibility Harmful to Innovation?," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(3), pages 387-396, May.
    26. Charles W. Baird, 2000. "Unions and Antitrust," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 21(4), pages 585-600, October.
    27. John T. Addison & Joachim Wagner, 1994. "UK Unionism and Innovative Activity: Some Cautionary Remarks on the Basis of a Simple Cross-country Test," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 32(1), pages 85-98, March.
    28. Bronars, Stephen G & Deere, Donald R, 1993. "Unionization, Incomplete Contracting, and Capital Investment," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66(1), pages 117-132, January.
    29. Tauman, Y & Weiss, Y, 1987. "Labor Unions and the Adoption of New Technology," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 5(4), pages 477-501, October.
    30. Addison, John T & Hirsch, Barry T, 1989. "Union Effects on Productivity, Profits, and Growth: Has the Long Run Arrived?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(1), pages 72-105, January.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. repec:aea:jeclit:v:55:y:2017:i:2:p:441-92 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Anders Böhlmark & Mikael Lindahl, 2015. "Independent Schools and Long-run Educational Outcomes: Evidence from Sweden's Large-scale Voucher Reform," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 82(327), pages 508-551, July.
    3. Figlio, D. & Karbownik, K. & Salvanes, K.G., 2016. "Education Research and Administrative Data," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
    4. 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.
    5. Balestra, Simone & Backes-Gellner, Uschi, 2017. "Heterogeneous returns to education over the wage distribution: Who profits the most?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 89-105.
    6. Felipe Barrera-Osorio & Dario Maldonado & Catherine Rodríguez, 2012. "Calidad de la educación básica y media en Colombia: diagnóstico y propuestas," DOCUMENTOS DE TRABAJO 010078, UNIVERSIDAD DEL ROSARIO.
    7. Juan Saavedra & Sandra Garcia, 2012. "Impacts of Conditional Cash Transfer Programs on Educational Outcomes in Developing Countries A Meta-analysis," Working Papers WR-921-1, RAND Corporation.
    8. David S. Kaplan & Rafael Novella & Graciana Rucci & Claudia Vazquez, 2015. "Training Vouchers and Labor Market Outcomes in Chile," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 88674, Inter-American Development Bank.
    9. Saavedra, Juan Esteban & Garcia, Sandra, 2012. "Impacts of Conditional Cash Transfer Programs on Educational Outcomes in Developing Countries: A Meta-analysis," Working Papers 921-1, RAND Corporation.
    10. Lamarche, Carlos, 2011. "Measuring the incentives to learn in Colombia using new quantile regression approaches," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(2), pages 278-288, November.
    11. Zhang, Hongliang, 2016. "Identification of treatment effects under imperfect matching with an application to Chinese elite schools," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 56-82.
    12. Attanasio, Orazio & Kugler, Adriana & Meghir, Costas, 2009. "Subsidizing Vocational Training for Disadvantaged Youth in Developing Countries: Evidence from a Randomized Trial," IZA Discussion Papers 4251, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    13. Simone Balestra & Uschi Backes-Gellner, 2013. "Heterogeneous Returns to Education Over Wage Distribution: Who Profits the Most?," Economics of Education Working Paper Series 0091, University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration (IBW), revised Dec 2013.
    14. Arlen Guarín & Carlos Medina & Christian Posso, 2017. "Calidad y Cobertura de la Educación Secundaria Pública y Privada en Colombia, y sus Costos Ocultos," Borradores de Economia 1006, Banco de la Republica de Colombia.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ecj:econjl:v:120:y:2010:i:546:p:f204-f228. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Wiley-Blackwell Digital Licensing) or (Christopher F. Baum). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.