The Effect of School Choice on Student Outcomes: Evidence from Randomized Lotteries
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.
Published: Cullen, Julie Berry, Brian A. Jacob, and Steven D. Levitt. “The effect of school choice on participants: evidence from randomized lotteries." Econometrica 74, 5 (2006): 1191-1230.