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School vouchers and academic performance: results from three randomized field trials


  • William G. Howell

    (Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

  • Patrick J. Wolf

    (Georgetown University Public Policy Institute, Washington, DC)

  • David E. Campbell

    (Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University)

  • Paul E. Peterson

    (Program on Education Policy and Governance, J.F.K. School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA)


This article examines the effects of school vouchers on student test scores in New York, New York, Dayton, Ohio, and Washington, DC. The evaluations in all three cities are designed as randomized field trials. The findings, therefore, are not confounded by the self-selection problems that pervade most observational data. After 2 years, African Americans who switched from public to private school gained, relative to their public-school peers, an average of 6.3 National Percentile Ranking points in the three cities on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. The gains by city were 4.2 points in New York, 6.5 points in Dayton, and 9.2 points in Washington. Effects for African Americans are statistically significant in all three cities. In no city are statistically significant effects observed for other ethnic groups, after either 1 or 2 years. © 2002 by the Association for Policy Analysis and Management.

Suggested Citation

  • William G. Howell & Patrick J. Wolf & David E. Campbell & Paul E. Peterson, 2002. "School vouchers and academic performance: results from three randomized field trials," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 21(2), pages 191-217.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:21:y:2002:i:2:p:191-217 DOI: 10.1002/pam.10023

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Henry M. Levin, 1998. "Educational vouchers: Effectiveness, choice, and costs," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(3), pages 373-392.
    2. Derek Neal, 1998. "What have we learned about the benefits of private schooling?," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Mar, pages 79-86.
    3. repec:cup:apsrev:v:95:y:2001:i:01:p:49-69_00 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Jesse M. Rothstein, 2006. "Good Principals or Good Peers? Parental Valuation of School Characteristics, Tiebout Equilibrium, and the Incentive Effects of Competition among Jurisdictions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1333-1350, September.
    2. Ludger Wößmann, 2006. "Bildungspolitische Lehren aus den internationalen Schülertests: Wettbewerb, Autonomie und externe Leistungsüberprüfung," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 7(3), pages 417-444, August.
    3. David M. Brasington & Diane Hite, 2014. "School Choice: Supporters And Opponents," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 32(1), pages 76-92, January.
    4. Leanna Stiefel & Amy Ellen Schwartz & Ingrid Gould Ellen, 2007. "Disentangling the racial test score gap: Probing the evidence in a large urban school district," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(1), pages 7-30.
    5. Susan Dynarski & Jonathan Gruber & Danielle Li, 2009. "Cheaper By the Dozen: Using Sibling Discounts at Catholic Schools to Estimate the Price Elasticity of Private School Attendance," NBER Working Papers 15461, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Philip J. Cook & Jens Ludwig, 2005. "Assigning Deviant Youths to Minimize Total Harm," NBER Working Papers 11390, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Robert Bifulco & Helen F. Ladd, 2007. "School choice, racial segregation, and test-score gaps: Evidence from North Carolina's charter school program*," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(1), pages 31-56.
    8. Hungerman, Daniel M. & Rinz, Kevin, 2016. "Where does voucher funding go? How large-scale subsidy programs affect private-school revenue, enrollment, and prices," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 136(C), pages 62-85.
    9. Lai, Fang & Sadoulet, Elisabeth & de Janvry, Alain, 2009. "The adverse effects of parents' school selection errors on academic achievement: Evidence from the Beijing open enrollment program," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 485-496, August.
    10. Ludger Wößmann, 2006. "Public-Private Partnership and Schooling Outcomes across Countries," CESifo Working Paper Series 1662, CESifo Group Munich.
    11. Sandstrom, F. Mikael & Bergstrom, Fredrik, 2005. "School vouchers in practice: competition will not hurt you," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2-3), pages 351-380, February.
    12. Marianne P. Bitler & Thurston Domina & Emily K. Penner & Hilary W. Hoynes, 2013. "Distributional Effects of a School Voucher Program: Evidence from New York City," NBER Working Papers 19271, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Sohn, Hosung, 2016. "Mean and distributional impact of single-sex high schools on students’ cognitive achievement, major choice, and test-taking behavior: Evidence from a random assignment policy in Seoul, Korea," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 155-175.

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