The Impact of School Choice on Student Outcomes: An Analysis of the Chicago Public Schools

September 2000
Brian Jacob, Julie Berry Cullen , Steven Levitt

We explore the impact of school choice on student outcomes in the context of open enrollment within the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Roughly half of the students opt out of their assigned high school to attend a different CPS school, and these students are much more likely than those who remain in their assigned schools to graduate. To determine the source of this apparent benefit, we compare outcomes across i) similar students with differential access to schooling options and ii) travelers and non-travelers within the same school. The results suggest that, other than for students who select career academies, the observed cross-sectional benefits are likely spurious.

We would like to thank John Easton of the Consortium on Chicago School Research and the Chicago School Board for providing access to the Chicago Public Schools data. We would also like to express our gratitude to the Chicago Regional Transportation Authority for the use and to Ms. Shayna Sachs of ManTech Systems Solutions Corporation for the processing of the TRIPS data. The National Science Foundation provided financial support. We would also like to gratefully acknowledge Jinyong Hahn, Caroline Hoxby, Susanna Loeb, Bruce Meyer, Kevin Murphy, Chris Taber, and seminar participants from Duke, Northwestern, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, and University of North Carolina for helpful comments. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the National Bureau of Economic Research.