The Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Effects of School Vouchers: New Evidence from Indiana, Louisiana, and Milwaukee
Saturday, November 14, 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Flamingo (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Jonathan Mills, University of Arkansas
Panel Chairs: Joshua Cowen, Michigan State University
Discussants: Christina Tuttle, Mathematica Policy Research and Rajashri Chakrabarti, Federal Reserve Bank of New York
School vouchers—publicly financed scholarships for use in K-12 private schools—are a controversial education reform in the United States. Although there are over 40 private school choice programs in the country, most are limited to students with disabilities or children in urban settings. Recently, statewide school voucher programs open to large populations of students based on their family income and/or their enrollment in a failing public school have been launched in Indiana, Louisiana, and Wisconsin. The papers in this panel contribute to the voucher literature by examining participant effects observed in two statewide programs and the longest standing voucher program in the U.S. In particular, the papers study such outcomes for program participants, such as achievement, character traits, civic values, and educational attainment through college.
First, Waddington and Berends will discuss Vouchers in the Crossroads: Heterogeneous Impacts on Student Achievement and Attendance Across Private Schools in Indiana.
Next, Mills, Cheng, and Wolf examine differences in academic achievement and non-cognitive skills among students participating in the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP). Using the results from over-subscribed lotteries used to award scholarships, the study first estimates the effects of using an LSP scholarship to enroll in private schools after two years of program participation via experimental design. In addition, the study uses unique data acquired through phone surveys of nearly 1,000 eligible LSP applicants to compare the distribution of non-cognitive skills among LSP scholarship lottery winners and losers. This work is part of the ongoing evaluation of the Louisiana Scholarship Program and constitutes the first study of a statewide publicly funded voucher program using experimental design.
Finally, Witte, Kisida, and Wolf use survey and administrative data from an evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program to examine high school attainment, college-going rates, as well as likelihood of graduating college within four years. Using a quasi-experimental design matching voucher-using high school students to similar public high school students, they find that students who attended private high schools enrolled in four-year colleges at higher rates comparable to several recent similar studies and eventually attained as much as 0.7 of an additional year of four year college. On the other hand, the authors find little evidence of differences for student attending two-year institutions.
Combined, the papers in this panel provide insight into how private school choice programs affect participants along a number of dimensions.