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