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

Cullen, J., Jacob, B. and Levitt, S. (2006). "The Effect of School Choice on Student Outcomes: Evidence from Randomized Lotteries." Econometrica. 74(5): 1191-1230.

Abstract

School choice has become an increasingly prominent strategy for enhancing 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. Compared to those losing lotteries, students who win attend better high schools along a number of dimensions, including higher peer achievement levels, higher peer graduation rates, and lower levels of poverty. Nonetheless, we find little evidence that winning a lottery provides any benefit on a wide variety of traditional academic measures such as graduation, standardized test scores, attendance rates, course-taking, and credit accumulation. Lottery winners do, however, experience improvements on a subset of non-traditional outcome measures, such as self-reported disciplinary incidences and arrest rates.

[Download the NBER working paper]