School Choice Reduces Crime, Increases College-Attendance, and Makes Your Breath Smell Better

Well, at least the first two claims are supported by rigorous new research based on school choice lotteries in Charlotte, North Carolina. Harvard researcher, David Deming, looked at a public school choice program that allows families to rank order their preferred schools and then admits students by a weighted lottery formula.  The program is designed primarily to facilitate school integration but it also allows random-assignment designed research of the effects of choice.  In the paper, “Better Schools, Less Crime?” , Deming found: 

Seven years after random assignment, lottery winners have been arrested for fewer and less serious crimes, and have spent fewer days incarcerated…  The reduction in crime persists through the end of the sample period, several years after enrollment in the preferred school is complete. The effects are concentrated among African-American males whose ex ante characteristics define them as “high risk.”

In another paper Deming wrote with Justine Hastings, Tom Kane and Doug Staiger, they examined the same Charlotte program but this time focused on the effects of choice on high school completion and college attendance.  They found:

We find strong evidence that high school lottery winners from neighborhoods assigned to the lowest-performing schools benefited greatly from choice. Girls are 12 percentage points more likely to attend a four-year college. Boys are 13 percentage points more likely to graduate from high school but are less likely to attend a four-year college. We present suggestive evidence that changes in relative rank within schools may explain these puzzling gender differences. In contrast with the results for students from low-performing home school zones, we find little evidence of gains for students whose home schools are of average quality.

So, expanding school choice reduces the likelihood that students will become criminals (particularly among African-American males) and increases the chances that boys will graduate high school and girls will attend college.  Given previous research showing that choice increases achievement for participating students, students who remain in traditional public schools, and improves civic goals (like school integration) in addition to these new findings, maybe choice really does make your breath smell better.  It seems to do so many other useful things.

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2 Responses to School Choice Reduces Crime, Increases College-Attendance, and Makes Your Breath Smell Better

  1. […] (H/T Jay Greene) A new study of North Carolina by Harvard researcher David Deming finds that school choice for the poorest students — especially African-American males — leads to less criminal activity: Importantly, the effects of winning the [school choice] lottery persist beyond the treatment years into the peak ages of criminal offending and beyond. After enrollment in the first choice school is complete, youth attend similar schools and live in similar neighborhoods. Yet the impacts persist for seven years after random assignment. The findings suggest that schools may be a particularly important setting for the prevention of future crime. […]

  2. […] School Choice Reduces Crime, Increases College-Attendance, and Makes Your Breath Smell Better. All except that breath thing, the thoughts here demonstrate why school choice should be a possibility for students. […]

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