Panel Paper: Do Voucher Students Attain Higher Levels of Education? Extended Evidence from the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program

Friday, November 9, 2018
Wilson B - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Patrick J. Wolf, University of Arkansas, John Witte, University of Wisconsin, Madison and Brian Kisida, University of Missouri

The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP), the first modern private school choice program in the United States, has grown from 341 students attending 7 private schools in 1990 to 27,857 students attending 126 private schools today. The MPCP has been subject to extensive study that has focused largely on student performance on standardized tests, which have found few differences in performance between MPCP students and similar students in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS).

This study presents new data on the college enrollment, persistence, and graduation of MPCP and MPS students who were tracked over 11 years beginning in 2006. MPCP participants are compared with a matched sample of MPS students who lived in the same neighborhood and had similar demographic characteristics and test scores at the beginning of the study.

The collective evidence in this paper indicates that students in the MPCP program have greater educational attainment than the comparison group, as measured by college enrollment and persistence. This finding applies both to students who were in ninth grade at the beginning of the study, for whom positive attainment effects have previously been reported, and to students who were initially enrolled in grades three through eight, who we examine here for the first time. As of 2017, MPCP students have spent more total years in a four-year college than their MPS peers, but differences in degree attainment rates are not statistically significant.