IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

School Choice and the Distributional Effects of Ability Tracking: Does Separation Increase Equality?


  • David N. Figlio
  • Marianne E. Page


Tracking programs have been criticized on the grounds that they harm disadvantaged children. The bulk of empirical research supports this view. These studies are conducted by comparing outcomes for across students placed in different tracks. Track placement, however, is likely to be endogenous with respect to outcomes. We use a new strategy for overcoming the endogeneity of track placement and find no evidence that tracking hurts low-ability children. We also demonstrate that tracking programs help schools attract more affluent students. Previous studies have been based on the assumption that students' enrollment decisions are unrelated to whether or not the school tracks. When we take school choice into account, we find evidence that low-ability children may be helped by tracking programs.

Suggested Citation

  • David N. Figlio & Marianne E. Page, 2000. "School Choice and the Distributional Effects of Ability Tracking: Does Separation Increase Equality?," NBER Working Papers 8055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8055
    Note: CH

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Epple, Dennis & Newlon, Elizabeth & Romano, Richard, 2002. "Ability tracking, school competition, and the distribution of educational benefits," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(1), pages 1-48, January.
    2. Murnane, Richard J & Willett, John B & Levy, Frank, 1995. "The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(2), pages 251-266, May.
    3. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416-416.
    4. Laura M. Argys & Daniel I. Rees & Dominic J. Brewer, 1996. "Detracking America's schools: Equity at zero cost?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(4), pages 623-645.
    5. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-442, June.
    6. Rees, D. I. & Brewer, D. J. & Argys, L. M., 1999. "How should we measure the effect of ability grouping on student performance?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 17-20, February.
    7. Bound, John & Johnson, George, 1992. "Changes in the Structure of Wages in the 1980's: An Evaluation of Alternative Explanations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 371-392, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education


    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:8055. 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.