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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.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w8055.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8055.

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Date of creation: Dec 2000
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Publication status: published as Figlio, David N. and Marianne E. Page. "School Choice And The Distributional Effects Of Ability Tracking: Does Separation Increase Inequality?," Journal of Urban Economics, 2002, v51(3,May), 497-514.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8055
Note: CH
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  1. 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 410-42, June.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Richard J. Murnane & John B. Willett & Frank Levy, 1995. "The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination," NBER Working Papers 5076, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. 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 371-92, June.
  6. 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.
  7. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416.
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