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The Political Economy of School Choice: Randomized School Admissions and Voter Participation


  • Hastings, Justine S.

    (Yale U)

  • Kane, Thomas J.

    (Harvard U)

  • Staiger, Douglas O.

    (Dartmouth College)

  • Weinstein, Jeffrey M.

    (Yale U)


We provide empirical evidence on the determinants of voter turnout using the randomized outcomes of a school choice lottery. We show that those losing the lottery to attend their first-choice school are significantly more likely to vote in the ensuing school board election than lottery winners. The effect of losing the school choice lottery on voting is highest among high-income families and among those who participated in prior elections. Aggregating the predicted turnout results up to the precinct level, we find evidence consistent with the hypothesis that losing the school choice lottery caused parents to vote against the incumbent school board chair, causing her to lose the election. These results have potentially important implications for political behavior: in order to maximize their chances of re-election, public officials may seek to minimize losses to high income residents and those with a history of voting rather than choosing welfare maximizing policies. The results also have important implications for the political viability of public school choice programs.

Suggested Citation

  • Hastings, Justine S. & Kane, Thomas J. & Staiger, Douglas O. & Weinstein, Jeffrey M., 2006. "The Political Economy of School Choice: Randomized School Admissions and Voter Participation," Working Papers 11, Yale University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:yaleco:11

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    1. Brunner, Eric & Sonstelie, Jon, 2003. "Homeowners, property values, and the political economy of the school voucher," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 239-257, September.
    2. Caroline M. Hoxby, 2000. "Does Competition among Public Schools Benefit Students and Taxpayers?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1209-1238, December.
    3. Borland, Melvin V. & Howsen, Roy M, 1992. "Student academic achievement and the degree of market concentration in education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 31-39, March.
    4. Caroline Minter Hoxby, 1996. "How Teachers' Unions Affect Education Production," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(3), pages 671-718.
    5. Couch, Jim F & Shughart, William F, II & Williams, Al L, 1993. "Private School Enrollment and Public School Performance," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 76(4), pages 301-312, August.
    6. Hastings, Justine S. & Kane, Thomas J. & Staiger, Douglas O., 2005. "Parental Preferences and School Competition: Evidence from a Public School Choice Program," Working Papers 10, Yale University, Department of Economics.
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    9. Caroline M. Hoxby, 2002. "Would School Choice Change the Teaching Profession?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 37(4), pages 846-891.
    10. Eric A. Hanushek & Steven G. Rivkin, 2003. "Does Public School Competition Affect Teacher Quality?," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of School Choice, pages 23-48 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Julie Berry Cullen & Brian A. Jacob & Steven Levitt, 2003. "The Effect of School Choice on Student Outcomes: Evidence from Randomized Lotteries," NBER Working Papers 10113, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Cecilia Elena Rouse, 1998. "Private School Vouchers and Student Achievement: An Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(2), pages 553-602.
    13. Stephen Coate & Michael Conlin, 2004. "A Group Rule–Utilitarian Approach to Voter Turnout: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1476-1504, December.
    14. Brunner, Eric & Sonstelie, Jon & Thayer, Mark, 2001. "Capitalization and the Voucher: An Analysis of Precinct Returns from California's Proposition 174," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 517-536, November.
    15. Justine S. Hastings & Thomas J. Kane & Douglas O. Staiger, 2006. "Preferences and Heterogeneous Treatment Effects in a Public School Choice Lottery," NBER Working Papers 12145, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Gary Chamberlain, 1980. "Analysis of Covariance with Qualitative Data," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 47(1), pages 225-238.
    17. Daniel P. Mayer & Paul E. Peterson & David E. Myers & Christina Clark Tuttle & William G. Howell, 2002. "School Choice in New York City After Three Years: An Evaluation of the School Choice Scholarships Program," Mathematica Policy Research Reports bd29adb569094778a5981be0e, Mathematica Policy Research.
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