Vouchers help African-American students go to college

The Effects of School Vouchers on College Enrollment: Experimental Evidence from New York City is a new Brookings Institution/Harvard University study written by Matthew M. Chingos and Paul E. Peterson.  Chingos and Peterson concluded that vouchers “increased the overall college enrollment rate among African-Americans by 24 percent.”

The authors examined data from the New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation Program (SCSF), a voucher program initiated in 1997.  As many as 1,000 low-income families received three-year scholarships of $1,400 to attend the non-public school of their choice.  Children were selected by lottery.  As I mentioned earlier this week, lotteries replicate an experimental research design, that is, it randomly assigned students to experimental (lottery winner) and control (lottery loser) groups.  This research design is considered to be the “gold standard” in social science research.

African-American children made other notable gains.  According to Chingos and Peterson, “In the absence of a voucher offer, the percentage of African-American students who attended a selective four-year college was 3 percent. That increased by 3.9 percentage points if the student received the offer of a voucher, a better than 100 percent increment in the percentage enrolled in a selective college—a very large increment from a very low baseline.”  Unfortunately, there was no evidence that Hispanic students received comparable benefits from the voucher program.

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