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Estimating the Cream Skimming Effect of School Choice

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  • Joseph G. Altonji
  • Ching-I Huang
  • Christopher R. Taber

Abstract

We derive a formula to determine the degree to which a school choice program may harm public school stayers by luring the best students to other schools. The "cream skimming" effect is increasing in the degree of heterogeneity within schools, the school choice take-up rate of strong students relative to weak students, and the dependence of school outcomes on student body quality. We use the formula to investigate the cream skimming effect of hypothetical voucher programs on the high school graduation rate and other outcomes of the students who would remain in public school. We find small effects across a wide variety of model specifications and types of modest voucher programs.

Suggested Citation

  • Joseph G. Altonji & Ching-I Huang & Christopher R. Taber, 2015. "Estimating the Cream Skimming Effect of School Choice," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 123(2), pages 266-324.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:doi:10.1086/679497
    DOI: 10.1086/679497
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    1. Joseph G. Altonji & Todd E. Elder & Christopher R. Taber, 2005. "Selection on Observed and Unobserved Variables: Assessing the Effectiveness of Catholic Schools," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(1), pages 151-184, February.
    2. 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.
    3. Patrick Bayer & Fernando Ferreira & Robert McMillan, 2007. "A Unified Framework for Measuring Preferences for Schools and Neighborhoods," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(4), pages 588-638, August.
    4. Lisa Barrow & Cecilia Elena Rouse, 2008. "School vouchers and student achievement: recent evidence, remaining questions," Working Paper Series WP-08-08, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    5. Dennis Epple & Richard Romano, 2008. "Educational Vouchers And Cream Skimming," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 49(4), pages 1395-1435, November.
    6. repec:eme:rlepps:v:18:y:1999:i:1999:p:115-140 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Thomas J. Nechyba, 2003. "Introducing School Choice into Multidistrict Public School Systems," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of School Choice, pages 145-194, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Dennis N. Epple & Richard Romano, 2003. "Neighborhood Schools, Choice, and the Distribution of Educational Benefits," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of School Choice, pages 227-286, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Elizabeth M. Caucutt, 2002. "Educational Vouchers When There Are Peer Group Effects--Size Matters," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 43(1), pages 195-222, February.
    10. Helen F. Ladd, 2002. "School Vouchers: A Critical View," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(4), pages 3-24, Fall.
    11. 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.
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    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education

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