The Impact of School Choice on Pupil Achievement, Segregation and Costs: Swedish Evidence

65 Pages Posted: 18 May 2007

See all articles by Anders Bohlmark

Anders Bohlmark

Stockholm University

Mikael Lindahl

University of Bonn; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: May 2007


This paper evaluates school choice at the compulsory-school level by assessing a reform implemented in Sweden in 1992, which opened up for publicly funded but privately operated schools. In many local school markets, this reform led to a significant increase in the quantity of such schools as well as in the share of pupils attending them. We estimate the impact of this increase in private enrolment on the average achievement of all pupils using within-municipality variation over time, and controlling for differential pre-reform municipality trends. We find that an increase in the private-school share by 10 percentage points increases average pupil achievement by almost 1 percentile rank point. We show that this total effect can be interpreted as the sum of a private-school attendance effect and a competition effect. The former effect, which is identified using variation in school choice among siblings, is found to be only a small part of the total effect. This suggests that the main part of the achievement effect is due to more competition in the school sector, forcing schools to improve their quality. We use grade point average as outcome variable. A comparison with test data suggests that our results are not driven by differential grade-setting standards in private and public schools. We further find that more competition from private schools increases school costs. There is also some evidence of sorting of pupils along socioeconomic and ethnic lines.

Keywords: school-choice reform, private-school competition, pupil achievement, segregation

JEL Classification: I22, I28, H40

Suggested Citation

Bohlmark, Anders and Lindahl, Mikael, The Impact of School Choice on Pupil Achievement, Segregation and Costs: Swedish Evidence (May 2007). IZA Discussion Paper No. 2786. Available at SSRN:

Anders Bohlmark

Stockholm University ( email )

Universitetsvägen 10
Stockholm, Stockholm SE-106 91

Mikael Lindahl (Contact Author)

University of Bonn ( email )

Postfach 2220
Bonn, D-53012

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

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