The Effect of School Choice on Student Outcomes: Evidence from Randomized Lotteries

53 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2003 Last revised: 21 Aug 2010

See all articles by Julie Berry Cullen

Julie Berry Cullen

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Brian Jacob

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Steven D. Levitt

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); American Bar Foundation

Date Written: November 2003

Abstract

School choice has become an increasingly prominent strategy for urban school districts seeking to enhance academic achievement. Evaluating the impact of such programs is complicated by the fact that a highly select sample of students takes advantage of these programs. To overcome this difficulty, we exploit randomized lotteries that determine high school admission in the Chicago Public Schools. Surprisingly, we find little evidence that attending sought after programs provides any benefit on a wide variety of traditional academic measures, including standardized test scores, attendance rates, course-taking, and credit accumulation. This is true despite the fact that those students who win the lotteries attend better high schools along a number of dimensions, including higher peer achievement levels, higher peer graduation rates, and lower levels of poverty. We do, however, uncover evidence that attendance at such schools may improve a subset of non-traditional outcome measures, such as self-reported disciplinary incidences and arrest rates.

Suggested Citation

Berry Cullen, Julianne (Julie) and Jacob, Brian and Levitt, Steven D., The Effect of School Choice on Student Outcomes: Evidence from Randomized Lotteries (November 2003). NBER Working Paper No. w10113. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=471463

Julianne (Julie) Berry Cullen (Contact Author)

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Economics ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0508
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Brian Jacob

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-384-7968 (Phone)
617-496-5747 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Steven D. Levitt

University of Chicago ( email )

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Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-834-1862 (Phone)
773-702-8490 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

American Bar Foundation

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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