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School vouchers and student achievement: recent evidence, remaining questions


  • Lisa Barrow
  • Cecilia Elena Rouse


In this article, we review the empirical evidence on the impact of education vouchers on student achievement, and briefly discuss the evidence from other forms of school choice. The best research to date finds relatively small achievement gains for students offered education vouchers, most of which are not statistically different from zero. Further, what little evidence exists regarding the potential for public schools to respond to increased competitive pressure generated by vouchers suggests that one should remain wary that large improvements would result from a more comprehensive voucher system. The evidence from other forms of school choice is also consistent with this conclusion. Many questions remain unanswered, however, including whether vouchers have longer-run impacts on outcomes such as graduation rates, college enrollment, or even future wages, and whether vouchers might nevertheless provide a cost-neutral alternative to our current system of public education provision at the elementary and secondary school level.

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  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhwp:wp-08-08

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sandra E. Black, 1999. "Do Better Schools Matter? Parental Valuation of Elementary Education," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(2), pages 577-599.
    2. Bettinger, Eric P., 2005. "The effect of charter schools on charter students and public schools," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 133-147, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Bernardo Lara & Alejandra Mizala & Andrea Repetto, 2009. "The Effectiveness of Private Voucher Education: Evidence from Structural School Switches," Documentos de Trabajo 263, Centro de Economía Aplicada, Universidad de Chile.
    3. Gregory Elacqua & Matías Martínez, 2011. "Searching for schools in a low quality market: Evidence from Chile," Working Papers 16, Facultad de Economía y Empresa, Universidad Diego Portales.
    4. MacLeod, W. Bentley & Urquiola, Miguel, 2012. "Anti-Lemons: School Reputation, Relative Diversity, and Educational Quality," IZA Discussion Papers 6805, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Derek Neal, 2011. "The Design of Performance Pay in Education," NBER Working Papers 16710, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item


    Educational vouchers;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid

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