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Exit, Voice and Quality in the English Education Sector

  • Deborah Wilson

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The use of choice as a mechanism to improve public service delivery is now well established in the UK. Current policy discourse additionally considers voice as a further, complementary, user-driven mechanism. In this paper I scrutinise the assumption that choice (exit) and voice complement each other in creating user-driven incentives to increase quality for all consumers in the context of education. I do this by going back to Hirschman’s (1970) thesis, focussing in particular on the definitions of quality put forward by him. I apply his analysis to the English education sector and show that, while the current policy discourse evokes the language of Hirschman, it doesn’t follow through on the actual implications of his analysis. In particular, I argue that in the current system, choice and voice may complement each other for only a subset of consumers.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK in its series The Centre for Market and Public Organisation with number 08/194.

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Length: 12 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bri:cmpowp:08/194
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  1. Martin Gaynor, 2006. "What Do We know About Competition and Quality in Health Care Markets?," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 06/151, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  2. Jesse Rothstein, 2004. "Good Principals or Good Peers? Parental Valuation of School Characteristics, Tiebout Equilibrium, and the Effects of Inter-district Competition," NBER Working Papers 10666, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Deborah Wilson & Anete Piebalga, 2008. "Accurate performance measure but meaningless ranking exercise? An analysis of the English school league tables," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 07/176, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  4. Justine S. Hastings & Thomas J. Kane & Douglas O. Staiger, 2005. "Parental Preferences and School Competition: Evidence from a Public School Choice Program," NBER Working Papers 11805, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Simon Burgess & Adam Briggs & Brendon McConnell & Helen Slater, 2006. "School Choice in England: Background Facts," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 06/159, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  6. Caroline Minter Hoxby, 2003. "School Choice and School Productivity. Could School Choice Be a Tide that Lifts All Boats?," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of School Choice, pages 287-342 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Paul, Samuel, 1992. "Accountability in public services: Exit, voice and control," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 20(7), pages 1047-1060, July.
  8. Carol Propper & Deborah Wilson, 2003. "The Use and Usefulness of Performance Measures in the Public Sector," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 03/073, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  9. Francois, Patrick, 2000. "'Public service motivation' as an argument for government provision," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(3), pages 275-299, November.
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