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The Effect of School Choice on Student Outcomes: Evidence from Randomized Lotteries

  • Julie Berry Cullen
  • Brian A. Jacob
  • Steven Levitt

School choice has become an increasingly prominent strategy for urban school districts seeking to enhance academic achievement. Evaluating the impact of such programs is complicated by the fact that a highly select sample of students takes advantage of these programs. To overcome this difficulty, we exploit randomized lotteries that determine high school admission in the Chicago Public Schools. Surprisingly, we find little evidence that attending sought after programs provides any benefit on a wide variety of traditional academic measures, including standardized test scores, attendance rates, course-taking, and credit accumulation. This is true despite the fact that those students who win the lotteries attend better high schools along a number of dimensions, including higher peer achievement levels, higher peer graduation rates, and lower levels of poverty. We do, however, uncover evidence that attendance at such schools may improve a subset of non-traditional outcome measures, such as self-reported disciplinary incidences and arrest rates.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10113.

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Date of creation: Nov 2003
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Cullen, Julie Berry, Brian A. Jacob, and Steven D. Levitt. “The effect of school choice on participants: evidence from randomized lotteries." Econometrica 74, 5 (2006): 1191-1230.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10113
Note: ED PE CH
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  1. Eric A. Hanushek & John F. Kain & Jacob M. Markman & Steven G. Rivkin, 2001. "Does Peer Ability Affect Student Achievement?," NBER Working Papers 8502, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Mocan Naci H. & Tekin Erdal, 2006. "Catholic Schools and Bad Behavior: A Propensity Score Matching Analysis," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-36, May.
  3. Cullen, Julie Berry & Jacob, Brian A. & Levitt, Steven D., 2005. "The impact of school choice on student outcomes: an analysis of the Chicago Public Schools," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(5-6), pages 729-760, June.
  4. Joshua Angrist & Eric Bettinger & Erik Bloom & Elizabeth King & Michael Kremer, 2001. "Vouchers for Private Schooling in Colombia: Evidence from a Randomized Natural Experiment," NBER Working Papers 8343, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  8. Cecilia Elena Rouse, 1998. "Private School Vouchers And Student Achievement: An Evaluation Of The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(2), pages 553-602, May.
  9. 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.
  10. Evans, William N & Schwab, Robert M, 1995. "Finishing High School and Starting College: Do Catholic Schools Make a Difference?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(4), pages 941-74, November.
  11. Alan B. Krueger & Pei Zhu, 2003. "Another Look at the New York City School Voucher Experiment," NBER Working Papers 9418, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  13. Joseph G. Altonji & Todd E. Elder & Christopher R. Taber, 2002. "An Evaluation of Instrumental Variable Strategies for Estimating the Effects of Catholic Schools," NBER Working Papers 9358, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Neal, Derek, 1997. "The Effects of Catholic Secondary Schooling on Educational Achievement," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 98-123, January.
  15. Lefgren, Lars, 2004. "Educational peer effects and the Chicago public schools," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 169-191, September.
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