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Do Vouchers Lead to Sorting under Random Private School Selection? Evidence from the Milwaukee Voucher Program

  • Rajashri Chakrabarti

    (Harvard University)

This paper analyzes the impact of voucher design on student sorting, and more specifically investigates whether there are feasible ways of designing vouchers that can reduce or eliminate student sorting. It studies these questions in the context of the first five years of the Milwaukee voucher program. Much of the existing literature investigates the question of sorting where private schools can screen students. However, the publicly funded U.S. voucher programs require private schools to accept all students unless oversubscribed and to pick students randomly if oversubscribed. This paper focuses on two crucial features of the Milwaukee voucher program - random private school selection and the absence of topping up of vouchers. In the context of a theoretical model, it argues that random private school selection alone cannot prevent student sorting. However, random private school selection coupled with the absence of topping up can preclude sorting by income, although there is still sorting by ability. Sorting by ability is not caused here by private school selection, but rather by parental self selection. Using a logit model and student level data from the Milwaukee voucher program for 1990-94, it then establishes that random selection has indeed taken place so that it provides an appropriate setting to test the corresponding theoretical predictions in the data. Next, using several alternative logit specifications, it demonstrates that these predictions are validated empirically. These findings have important policy implications.

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Public Economics with number 0512004.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: 02 Dec 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwppe:0512004
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 35
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://econwpa.repec.org

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  1. Rajashri Chakrabarti, 2005. "Can Increasing Private School Participation and Monetary Loss in a Voucher Program Affect Public School Performance? Evidence from Milwaukee," Public Economics 0512003, EconWPA.
  2. Epple, Dennis & Romano, Richard E, 1998. "Competition between Private and Public Schools, Vouchers, and Peer-Group Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 33-62, March.
  3. Eric J. Brunner & Jennifer Imazeki & Stephen L. Ross, 2010. "Universal Vouchers and Racial and Ethnic Segregation," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(4), pages 912-927, November.
  4. Caroline Minter Hoxby, 2003. "School Choice and School Productivity. Could School Choice Be a Tide that Lifts All Boats?," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of School Choice, pages 287-342 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Figlio, David & Hart, Cassandra M.D. & Metzger, Molly, 2010. "Who uses a means-tested scholarship, and what do they choose?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 301-317, April.
  6. Dennis Epple & Richard Romano, 2002. "Educational Vouchers and Cream Skimming," NBER Working Papers 9354, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Dennis Epple & Richard Romano & Holger Sieg, 2006. "Admission, Tuition, and Financial Aid Policies in the Market for Higher Education," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(4), pages 885-928, 07.
  8. Epple, Dennis & Figlio, David & Romano, Richard, 2004. "Competition between private and public schools: testing stratification and pricing predictions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1215-1245, July.
  9. Dalton Conley & Rebecca Glauber, 2006. "Parental Educational Investment and Children’s Academic Risk: Estimates of the Impact of Sibship Size and Birth Order from Exogenous Variation in Fertility," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(4).
  10. Epple, Dennis & Romano, Richard & Sieg, Holger, 2000. "Peer Effects, Financial Aid, and Selection of Students into Colleges and Universities: An Empirical Analysis," Working Papers 00-02, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  11. Levin, Henry M., 1991. "The economics of educational choice," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 137-158, June.
  12. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Miguel Urquiola, 2003. "When Schools Compete, How Do They Compete? An Assessment of Chile's Nationwide School Voucher Program," NBER Working Papers 10008, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Levin, Henry M., 1992. "Market approaches to education: Vouchers and school choice," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 279-285, December.
  14. William G. Howell, 2004. "Dynamic selection effects in means-tested, urban school voucher programs," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(2), pages 225-250.
  15. Maria Marta Ferreyra, 2007. "Estimating the Effects of Private School Vouchers in Multidistrict Economies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 789-817, June.
  16. David E. Campbell & Martin R. West & Paul E. Peterson, 2005. "Participation in a national, means-tested school voucher program," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(3), pages 523-541.
  17. Henry M. Levin, 1998. "Educational vouchers: Effectiveness, choice, and costs," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(3), pages 373-392.
  18. Hsieh, Chang-Tai & Urquiola, Miguel, 2006. "The effects of generalized school choice on achievement and stratification: Evidence from Chile's voucher program," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(8-9), pages 1477-1503, September.
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