IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Beyond the Classroom: The Implications of School Vouchers for Church Finances


  • Daniel M. Hungerman
  • Kevin J. Rinz
  • Jay Frymark


Governments have used vouchers to spend billions of dollars on private education; much of this spending has gone to religiously-affiliated schools. We explore the possibility that vouchers could create a financial windfall for religious organizations operating private schools and in doing so impact the spiritual, moral, and social fabric of communities. We use a dataset of Catholic-parish finances from Milwaukee that includes information on both Catholic schools and the parishes that run them. We show that vouchers are now a dominant source of funding for many churches; parishes in our sample running voucher-accepting schools get more revenue from vouchers than from worshipers. We also find that voucher expansion prevents church closures and mergers. Despite these results, we fail to find evidence that vouchers promote religious behavior: voucher expansion causes significant declines in church donations and church spending on non-educational religious purposes. The meteoric growth of vouchers appears to offer financial stability for congregations while at the same time diminishing their religious activities.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel M. Hungerman & Kevin J. Rinz & Jay Frymark, 2017. "Beyond the Classroom: The Implications of School Vouchers for Church Finances," NBER Working Papers 23159, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23159
    Note: CH ED LE PE

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to the full text is generally limited to series subscribers, however if the top level domain of the client browser is in a developing country or transition economy free access is provided. More information about subscriptions and free access is available at Free access is also available to older working papers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Fletcher, Jason & Kumar, Sanjeev, 2014. "Religion and risky health behaviors among U.S. adolescents and adults," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 123-140.
    2. Jane Cooley Fruehwirth & Sriya Iyer & Anwen Zhang, 2016. "Religion and Depression in Adolescence," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1613, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    3. Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, 2015. "Acts of God? Religiosity and Natural Disasters Across Subnational World Districts," Discussion Papers 15-06, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    4. Cecilia Elena Rouse, 1998. "Private School Vouchers and Student Achievement: An Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(2), pages 553-602.
    5. Chen, Daniel L. & Lind, Jo Thori, 2016. "The Political Economy of Beliefs: Why Fiscal and Social Conservatives/Liberals (Sometimes) Come Hand-in-Hand," TSE Working Papers 16-722, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    6. Raphaƫl Franck & Laurence Iannaccone, 2014. "Religious decline in the 20th century West: testing alternative explanations," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 159(3), pages 385-414, June.
    7. Bottan, Nicolas L. & Perez-Truglia, Ricardo, 2015. "Losing my religion: The effects of religious scandals on religious participation and charitable giving," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 106-119.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods
    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23159. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.