NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Benefits Of School Choice

February 2, 2001

Highly respected Harvard University economist Caroline Hoxby has concluded in recent studies that school choice does improve educational performance. She compared results in metropolitan areas that have lots of school districts with those that don't.

Parents have greater choice in cities with multiple school districts, since they can move from a district with poor schools into one with superior schools. When a school district is city-wide, choice is denied parents.

For instance, comparing multiple-district Boston with single-district Miami, Hoxley found that choice in Boston, compared to single-district Miami, was associated with a 1.4-grade-levels improvement in student performance and an increase in young adult earnings of 15 percent.

Among Hoxby's other conclusions:

  • Choice actually reduces spending on education -- with the improvement in performance being achieved at lower cost.
  • Choice has the biggest impact on school productivity in states where districts have greater financial independence.
  • Policies that reduce choice are likely to increase the share of students in private schools and reduce the share of voters who are interested in the general well-being of public education.

Finally, the view that greater choice favors the rich at the expense of the poor gets no backing. Everybody gains.

Source: "The Difference that Choice Makes," Economics Focus, Economist, January 27, 2001; Caroline Hoxby, "Does Competition Among Public Schools Benefit Students and Taxpayers?" American Economic Review, December 2000, and "Would School Choice Change the Teaching Profession?" NBER Working Paper No. 7866, National Bureau of Economic Research.


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