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Illusory Gains from Chile's Targeted School Voucher Experiment

Listed author(s):
  • Benjamin Feigenberg
  • Steven Rivkin
  • Rui Yan

In 2008, Chile implemented a targeted voucher program that increased voucher values for disadvantaged students at participating schools by approximately 50%. Although disadvantaged students made substantial fourth grade test score gains that other studies have attributed to the program, our analysis raises serious doubts that the program had a substantial effect on cognitive skills. First, there was only a minor reduction in class size and little evidence of increases in any inputs. An audit showed that many schools were not using additional revenues for permitted expenditures, and estimates that exploit a discontinuity in the revenues allocated to schools show no evidence of positive effects of allocated funds on achievement growth. In addition, there is limited evidence of competitive or incentive effects on school quality or that disadvantaged students transitioned to higher quality schools. The much smaller gains made by disadvantaged students in low-stakes eighth grade test scores along with an increased rate of missing scores on fourth grade tests is consistent with extensive strategic behavior by schools. In contrast, increases in parental education and income among disadvantaged children indicate a primary role for improvements in family circumstances of tested students in explaining the meaningful decline in the achievement gap.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 23178.

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Date of creation: Feb 2017
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23178
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  1. Gordon B. Dahl & Lance Lochner, 2010. "The Impact of Family Income on Child Achievement: Evidence from the Earned Income Tax Credit," University of Western Ontario, Centre for Human Capital and Productivity (CHCP) Working Papers 20105, University of Western Ontario, Centre for Human Capital and Productivity (CHCP).
  2. Chumacero, Rómulo A. & Gómez, Daniel & Paredes, Ricardo D., 2011. "I would walk 500 miles (if it paid): Vouchers and school choice in Chile," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 1103-1114, October.
  3. Card, David & Dooley, Martin & Payne, Abigail, 2010. "School Competition and Efficiency with Publicly Funded Catholic Schools," CLSSRN working papers clsrn_admin-2010-28, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 23 Sep 2010.
  4. Alan B. Krueger, 1997. "Experimental Estimates of Education Production Functions," NBER Working Papers 6051, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. McCrary, Justin, 2008. "Manipulation of the running variable in the regression discontinuity design: A density test," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 698-714, February.
  8. Patrick McEwan, 2001. "The Effectiveness of Public, Catholic, and Non-Religious Private Schools in Chile's Voucher System," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(2), pages 103-128.
  9. David Bravo & Sankar Mukhopadhyay & Petra E. Todd, 2010. "Effects of school reform on education and labor market performance: Evidence from Chile's universal voucher system," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 1(1), pages 47-95, 07.
  10. Randall Reback & Julie Berry Cullen, 2006. "Tinkering toward accolades: School gaming under a performance accountability system," Working Papers 0601, Barnard College, Department of Economics.
  11. Juan A. Correa & Francisco Parro & Loreto Reyes, 2014. "The Effects of Vouchers on School Results: Evidence from Chile's Targeted Voucher Program," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(4), pages 351-398.
  12. Gallego Francisco, 2013. "When Does Inter-School Competition Matter? Evidence from the Chilean “Voucher” System," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 13(2), pages 525-562, August.
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  14. Patrick L. Baude & Marcus Casey & Eric A. Hanushek & Steven G. Rivkin, 2014. "The Evolution of Charter School Quality," NBER Working Papers 20645, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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