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Estimating the Returns to Urban Boarding Schools: Evidence from SEED


  • Vilsa E. Curto
  • Roland G. Fryer, Jr.


The SEED schools, which combine a "No Excuses'' charter model with a five-day-a-week boarding program, are America's only urban public boarding schools for the poor. We provide the first causal estimate of the impact of attending SEED schools on academic achievement, with the goal of understanding whether changing a student's environment through boarding is a cost-effective strategy to increase achievement among the poor. Using admission lotteries, we show that attending a SEED school increases achievement by 0.198 standard deviations in reading and 0.230 standard deviations in math, per year of attendance. Despite these relatively large impacts, the return on investment in SEED is less than five percent due to the substantial costs of boarding. Similar "No Excuses'' charter schools -- without a boarding option -- have a return on investment of over eighteen percent.

Suggested Citation

  • Vilsa E. Curto & Roland G. Fryer, Jr., 2011. "Estimating the Returns to Urban Boarding Schools: Evidence from SEED," NBER Working Papers 16746, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16746
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rajashri Chakrabarti, 2013. "Vouchers, Public School Response, And The Role Of Incentives: Evidence From Florida," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 51(1), pages 500-526, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Joshua D. Angrist & Parag A. Pathak & Christopher R. Walters, 2013. "Explaining Charter School Effectiveness," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(4), pages 1-27, October.
    2. Roland G. Fryer, Jr, 2011. "Injecting Successful Charter School Strategies into Traditional Public Schools: A Field Experiment in Houston," NBER Working Papers 17494, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Will Dobbie & Roland G. Fryer, Jr, 2011. "Getting Beneath the Veil of Effective Schools: Evidence from New York City," NBER Working Papers 17632, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Gabriel Heller Sahlgren, 2014. "Handing Over the School Keys: The Impact of Privatisation on Education Quality," Economic Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 34(2), pages 196-210, June.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination


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