Evidence on School Choice
Economists, long inspired by Milton Friedman and others, generally embrace the concept of school choice. But actual evidence on its efficacy has been thin.
[W]e use unique daily data on individual-level student absences and suspensions to show that lottery winners have significantly lower truancies after they learn about lottery outcomes but before they enroll in their new schools. The effects are largest for male students entering high school, whose truancy rates decline by 21% in the months after winning the lottery.
How do the authors interpret this finding?
We interpret this as students exerting more effort towards academics at their current school due to an increase in intrinsic motivation from knowing that they will be able to attend a school of their choice in the subsequent school year.
Furthermore, test scores seem to bolster the argument:
We then examine the impact attending a chosen school has on student test score outcomes. We find substantial test score gains from attending a charter school and some evidence that choosing and attending a high value-added magnet school improves test scores as well. Our results contribute to current evidence that school choice programs can effectively raise test scores of participants. Our findings suggest that this may occur both through an immediate effect on student behavior and through the benefit of attending a higher-performing school.