Vouchers Win More

On the heels of Greg’s updated review of the research on the effects of vouchers, we have a new article in Education Next by Matthew Chingos and Paul Peterson finding significant benefits from New York City’s private voucher program on college attendance by African American students:

We find that the offer of a voucher increased college enrollment within three years of the student’s expected graduation from high school by 0.7 percentage points, an insignificant impact. This finding, however, masks substantial variation in impacts among students from different ethnic groups. We find evidence of large, statistically significant impacts on African Americans, but fairly small and statistically insignificant impacts on Hispanic students. We discuss results for the small number of students from other groups below.

The SCSF-NSC linked data indicate that a voucher offer increased the college-enrollment rate of African Americans by 7 percentage points, an increase of 20 percent. If an African American student used the scholarship to attend private school for any amount of time, the estimated impact on college enrollment was 9 percentage points, a 24 percent increase over the college enrollment rate among comparable African American students assigned to the control group (see Figure 1). This corresponds to 3 percentage points for every year the voucher was used.

The impact of a voucher offer on the college-enrollment rate of Hispanic students is a statistically insignificant 2 percentage points. Although that estimate is much smaller than the one observed for African Americans, the impacts on the two ethnic groups are not significantly different from one another.

We obtain similar results for full-time college enrollment. Among African Americans, 26 percent of the control group attended college full-time at some point within three years of expected high-school graduation. The impact of a voucher offer was to increase this rate by 7 percentage points, a 25 percent increment. Among students using the voucher to attend a private school, the estimated impact was 8 percentage points, or roughly 31 percent. No statistically significant impact on full-time college enrollment was evident for Hispanic students.

Only 9 percent of the African American students in the control group attended a private four-year college. The offer of a voucher raised that proportion by 5 percentage points, an increase of 58 percent. That extraordinary increment may reflect the tight connections between private elementary and secondary schools and private institutions of higher education.

The percentage of African American students in the control group who attended a selective four-year college was 3 percent. That increased by 4 percentage points if the student received the offer of a voucher, a better than 100 percent increment in the percentage enrolled in a selective college, a very large increment from a very low baseline. Once again, no impacts were detected for Hispanic students.

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3 Responses to Vouchers Win More

  1. Greg Forster says:

    Thankfully I was able to include a version of this study, published last year, in the new Win-Win report!

  2. Christopher Vincent says:

    What might explain the difference between the two cultural groups?

  3. Greg Forster says:

    The most widely accepted theory is that the black students were the most poorly served by their original schools, so they made more dramatic gains from the switch, and thus their gains were easier to discover statistically. This is supported by the existence of other studies examining the same data set using different statistical methods, which find positive results for students who came from the lowest-performing public schools, but not for the voucher group as a whole.

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