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Can increasing private school participation and monetary loss in a voucher program affect public school performance? Evidence from Milwaukee

  • Rajashri Chakrabarti

The Milwaukee voucher program, as implemented in 1990, allowed only nonsectarian private schools to participate in the program. However, following a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling, the program was expanded to include religious private schools in 1998. This second phase of the voucher program led to more than a three-fold increase in the number of private schools and almost a four-fold increase in the number of choice students. Moreover, because of some changes in funding provisions, the revenue loss per student from vouchers increased in the second phase of the program. This paper analyzes, both theoretically and empirically, the effects of these changes on public school performance (as measured by test scores) in Milwaukee. It argues that voucher design matters and that the choice of parameters in a voucher program is crucial in determining the effects of public school incentives and performance. In the context of a theoretical model of public school and household behavior, the paper establishes that the policy changes will lead to an improvement of the public schools in the second phase of the program as compared with the first phase. Following Hoxby (2003a, 2003b) in the classification of treatment and control groups and using 1987-2002 data and a difference-in-differences estimation strategy in trends, the paper then shows that the theoretical prediction is validated empirically. This result is robust to alternative samples and specifications and survives robustness checks, including correcting for mean reversion.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of New York in its series Staff Reports with number 300.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:300
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  1. McMillan, Robert, 2004. "Competition, incentives, and public school productivity," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1871-1892, August.
  2. Rajashri Chakrabarti, 2004. "Impact of Voucher Design on Public School Performance: Evidence from Florida and Milwaukee Voucher Programs," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 221, Econometric Society.
  3. Kenneth Y. Chay & Patrick J. McEwan & Miguel Urquiola, 2003. "The Central Role of Noise in Evaluating Interventions that Use Test Scores to Rank Schools," NBER Working Papers 10118, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Chakrabarti, Rajashri, 2008. "Can increasing private school participation and monetary loss in a voucher program affect public school performance? Evidence from Milwaukee," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1371-1393, June.
  5. Thomas J. Nechyba, 1996. "Public School Finance in a General Equilibrium Tiebout World: Equalization Programs, Peer Effects and Private School Vouchers," NBER Working Papers 5642, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Miguel Urquiola, 2003. "When Schools Compete, How Do They Compete? An Assessment of Chile's Nationwide School Voucher Program," NBER Working Papers 10008, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Elizabeth M. Caucutt, 2002. "Educational Vouchers When There Are Peer Group Effects--Size Matters," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 43(1), pages 195-222, February.
  9. C. F. Manski, . "Educational choice (vouchers) and social mobility," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 972-92, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  10. West, Martin R. & Peterson, Paul E., 2005. "The Efficacy of Choice Threats within School Accountability Systems: Results from Legislatively Induced Experiments," Working Paper Series rwp05-033, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  11. Dennis Epple & Richard Romano, 2008. "Educational Vouchers And Cream Skimming," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 49(4), pages 1395-1435, November.
  12. Caroline M. Hoxby, 2002. "School Choice and School Productivity (or Could School Choice be a Tide that Lifts All Boats?)," NBER Working Papers 8873, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Thomas J. Nechyba, 2003. "Introducing School Choice into Multidistrict Public School Systems," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of School Choice, pages 145-194 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Thomas J. Nechyba, 2000. "Mobility, Targeting, and Private-School Vouchers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 130-146, March.
  15. Epple, Dennis & Romano, Richard E, 1998. "Competition between Private and Public Schools, Vouchers, and Peer-Group Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 33-62, March.
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