The School Choice Voucher: A 'Get Out of Jail' Card?
37 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2016 Last revised: 8 Mar 2016
Date Written: March 8, 2016
In this report we examine crime rates for young adults who experienced Milwaukee's citywide voucher program as high school students and a comparable group of their peers who had been public school students. Using unique data collected as part of a longitudinal evaluation of the program, we consider criminal activity by youth initially exposed to voucher schools and those in public schools at the same time. We also consider subsequent criminal activity by the students that stayed in the voucher program through 12th grade compared to those who were in public schools for the same period. We show that the mere exposure to private schooling through a voucher is associated with lower rates of criminal activity but the relationship is not robust to different analytic samples or measures of crime. We find a more consistent statistically significant negative relationship between students that stayed in the voucher program through 12th grade and criminal activity (meaning persistent voucher students commit fewer crimes). These results are apparent when controlling for a robust set of student demographics, test scores, and parental characteristics. We conclude that merely being exposed to private schooling for a short time through a voucher program may not have a significant impact on criminal activity, though persistently attending a private school through a voucher program can decrease subsequent criminal activity, especially for males.
Keywords: school vouchers, school choice, public program evaluation, crime, non-cognitive skills
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