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School Vouchers: A Survey of the Economics Literature

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  • Dennis Epple
  • Richard E. Romano
  • Miguel Urquiola

Abstract

We review the theoretical, computational, and empirical research on school vouchers, with a focus on the latter. In this substantial body of work, many studies find insignificant effects of vouchers on educational outcomes; however, multiple positive findings support continued exploration. Specifically, the empirical research on small scale programs does not suggest that awarding students a voucher is a systematically reliable way to improve educational outcomes. Nevertheless, in some settings, or for some subgroups or outcomes, vouchers can have a substantial positive effect on those who use them. Studies of large scale voucher programs find student sorting as a result of their implementation, although of varying magnitude. Evidence on both small scale and large scale programs suggests that competition induced by vouchers leads public schools to improve. Moreover, research is making progress on understanding how vouchers may be designed to limit adverse effects from sorting while preserving positive effects related to competition. Finally, our sense is that work originating in a single case (e.g., a given country) or in a single research approach (e.g., experimental designs) will not provide a full understanding of voucher effects; fairly wide ranging empirical and theoretical work will be necessary to make progress.

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  • Dennis Epple & Richard E. Romano & Miguel Urquiola, 2015. "School Vouchers: A Survey of the Economics Literature," NBER Working Papers 21523, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21523
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    Cited by:

    1. David N. Figlio & Cassandra M.D. Hart & Krzysztof Karbownik, 2020. "Effects of Scaling Up Private School Choice Programs on Public School Students," NBER Working Papers 26758, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Karbownik, Krzysztof, 2020. "The effects of student composition on teacher turnover: Evidence from an admission reform," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 75(C).
    3. Béatrice Boutchenik & Pauline Givord & Olivier Monso, 2020. "How do restrictive zoning and parental choices impact social diversity in schools?: A methodological contribution to the decomposition of segregation indices applied to France," Sciences Po publications 105, Sciences Po.
    4. Luca Tasciotti & Natascha Wagner, 2018. "How Much Should We Trust Micro-data? A Comparison of the Socio-demographic Profile of Malawian Households Using Census, LSMS and DHS data," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 30(4), pages 588-612, September.
    5. Hinnerich, Björn Tyrefors & Vlachos, Jonas, 2017. "The impact of upper-secondary voucher school attendance on student achievement. Swedish evidence using external and internal evaluations," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 1-14.
    6. Anell, Anders & Dietrichson, Jens & Ellegård, Lina Maria & Kjellsson, Gustav, 2021. "Information, switching costs, and consumer choice: Evidence from two randomised field experiments in Swedish primary health care," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 196(C).
    7. Richard J. Murnane & Marcus R. Waldman & John B. Willett & Maria Soledad Bos & Emiliana Vegas, 2017. "The Consequences of Educational Voucher Reform in Chile," NBER Working Papers 23550, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Lucas Gortázar & David Mayor & José Montalbán, 2020. "School Choice Priorities and School Segregation: Evidence from Madrid," Studies on the Spanish Economy eee2020-06, FEDEA.
    9. Tahir Andrabi & Jishnu Das & Asim I. Khwaja & Selcuk Ozyurt & Niharika Singh, 2020. "Upping the Ante: The Equilibrium Effects of Unconditional Grants to Private Schools," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 110(10), pages 3315-3349, October.
    10. Sebhatu, Abiel & Wennberg, Karl & Lakomaa, Erik & Brandén, Maria, 2020. "Work Environment and Competition in Swedish Schools, 1999-2011," Ratio Working Papers 330, The Ratio Institute.
    11. Karin Edmark & Lovisa Persson, 2020. "The Impact of Attending an Independent Upper Secondary School: Evidence from Sweden Using School Ranking Data," CESifo Working Paper Series 8680, CESifo.
    12. W. Bentley MacLeod & Miguel Urquiola, 2018. "Is Education Consumption or Investment? Implications for the Effect of School Competition," NBER Working Papers 25117, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Navarro-Palau, Patricia, 2017. "Effects of differentiated school vouchers: Evidence from a policy change and date of birth cutoffs," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 86-107.
    14. Gajardo, Felipe & Grau, Nicolás, 2019. "Competition among schools and educational quality: Tension between various objectives of educational policy," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 123-133.
    15. Tomori, Françeska, 2018. "Mixed Duopoly in Education with Vouchers," Working Papers 2072/306548, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Department of Economics.
    16. Taghizadeh, Jonas Larsson, 2020. "Effects of school closures on displaced students and future cohorts," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(C).
    17. Edmark, Karin & Hussain, Iftikhar & Haelermans, Carla, 2020. "The Impact of Voucher Schools: Evidence From Swedish Upper Secondary Schools," Working Paper Series 3/2020, Stockholm University, Swedish Institute for Social Research.
    18. Miguel Urquiola, 2015. "Progress and challenges in achieving an evidence-based education policy in Latin America and the Caribbean," Latin American Economic Review, Springer;Centro de Investigaciòn y Docencia Económica (CIDE), vol. 24(1), pages 1-30, December.
    19. Cardak, Buly A. & Glomm, Gerhard & Ravikumar, B., 2020. "Majority voting in a model of means testing," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 122(C).
    20. Erwin Ooghe, 2021. "Prioritarianism in Education," CESifo Working Paper Series 8872, CESifo.
    21. Brotherhood, Luiz & Delalibera, Bruno R., 2020. "Minding the gap between schools and universities," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 120(C).
    22. Pilar (P.) Garcia-Gomez & Helena M Hernandez-Pizarro & Guillem Lopez-Casasnovas & Joaquim Vidiella-Martin, 2019. "Unravelling Hidden Inequities in a Universal Public Long-Term Care System," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 19-011/V, Tinbergen Institute.
    23. Fabre, Anaïs & Straub, Stéphane, 2019. "The Economic Impact of public private partnerships (PPPs) in Infrastructure, Health and Education: A Review," TSE Working Papers 19-986, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    24. Baum, Donald R., 2018. "Private school vouchers in developing countries: A survey of the evidence," SocArXiv 6j7qp, Center for Open Science.

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    JEL classification:

    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods
    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education

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