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Private School Vouchers and Student Achievement: An Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program

  • Cecilia Elena Rouse
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    In 1990, Wisconsin became the first state in the country to provide vouchers to low income students to attend non-sectarian private schools. In this paper, I use a variety of estimation strategies and samples to estimate the effect of the program on math and reading scores. First, since schools selected students randomly from among their applicants if the school was oversubscribed, I compare the academic achievement of students who were selected to those who were not selected. Second, I present instrumental variables estimates of the effectiveness of private schools (relative to public schools) using the initial selection as an instrumental variable for attendance at a private school. Finally, I used a fixed-effects strategy to compare students enrolled in the private schools to a sample of students from the Milwaukee public schools. I find that the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program appears to have had a positive effect on the math achievement of those who attended a private school; but had no benefits for reading scores. I have found the results to be fairly robust to data imputations and sample attrition, however these limitations should be kept in mind when interpreting the results.

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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w5964.pdf
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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5964.

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    Date of creation: Mar 1997
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    Publication status: published as Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 113, no. 2 (May 1998): 553-602.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5964
    Note: CH LS PE
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    National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.

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    1. Behrman, Jere R & Birdsall, Nancy, 1983. "The Quality of Schooling: Quantity Alone is Misleading," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(5), pages 928-46, December.
    2. James J. Heckman, 1995. "Instrumental Variables: A Cautionary Tale," NBER Technical Working Papers 0185, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Jerry A. Hausman & David A. Wise, 1983. "Technical Problems in Social Experimentation: Cost versus Ease of Analysis," NBER Working Papers 1061, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Link, Charles & Ratledge, Edward & Lewis, Kenneth, 1980. "The Quality of Education and Cohort Variation in Black-White Earnings Differentials: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(1), pages 196-203, March.
    5. James J. Heckman, 1995. "Randomization as an Instrumental Variable," NBER Technical Working Papers 0184, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. William N. Evans & Robert M. Schwab, 1995. "Finishing High School and Starting College: Do Catholic Schools Make a Difference?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(4), pages 941-974.
    7. Eric A. Hanushek, 1979. "Conceptual and Empirical Issues in the Estimation of Educational Production Functions," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 14(3), pages 351-388.
    8. Akin, John S & Garfinkel, Irv, 1980. "The Quality of Education and Cohort Variation in Black-White Earnings Differentials: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(1), pages 186-91, March.
    9. Jonathan Gruber, 1996. "Cash Welfare as a Consumption Smoothing Mechanism for Single Mothers," NBER Working Papers 5738, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Richard J. Murnane, 1984. "A Review Essay-Comparisons of Public and Private Schools: Lessons from the Uproar," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 19(2), pages 263-277.
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