Competitive Effects of Vouchers

    This project is examining the effects of vouchers and public school choice.  Previous voucher analyses conducted at the school level found marginal gains associated with competition and choice. Most studies, however, cannot take into account student movement from one school to another, or changes in the demographic composition of cohorts within a school. Only student-level data allow for the recovery of more precise estimations.  Fortunately, the Department of Education in Florida has recently provided NCSC researchers with student test score and demographic information for the school years 1998-99 through 2002-03.  Also included in these data is a broad array of information about schools and districts.  So researchers can, for the first time, use individual test score data to estimate programmatic effects of a statewide Florida voucher initiative as well as the school choice provisions of No Child Left Behind. 

    When dividing the way parents choose and use vouchers into two stages--initial application and subsequent take-up--some factors, like religious affiliation and religious service attendance, affect both stages. Others, like mother’s education, affect only the application stage. Still others, like ethnicity, have opposite effects at the two stages. Compared to whites, minorities are more likely to apply for vouchers, but less likely to take them when given the opportunity. Continued data analyses are ongoing. Private schooling has been shown to be more beneficial for students from disadvantaged social and minority ethnic backgrounds than for advantaged white students. Because stronger extrinsic incentives are needed to motivate disadvantaged than advantaged students and families, it is for these students that private schooling has particularly positive educational impacts, despite the fewer fiscal resources available to private than public schools.

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The NCSC is funded by a 5 year, $13.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences. Its lead institution is Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. The center is housed on the campus of Peabody College, one of the nation's top graduate schools of education.