Author: Carlson, Deven E., & Cowen, Joshua M.

Title: School Vouchers and Student Neighborhoods: Evidence from the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program

University Affiliation: University of Oklahoma; Michigan State University


Research Question: 1) Do voucher schools disproportionately draw students from better public schools and city neighborhoods, or do they draw students most in need of alternative options? 2) Are public schools attended by students in neighborhoods contributing large numbers of students to the voucher program more or less effective than those attended by students in neighborhoods with fewer voucher students? 3) Are voucher students located in city neighborhoods that directly contribute more or less to student outcomes? 4) What are the school and neighborhood contexts of students returning to the public sector?

Published: Yes

Journal Name or Institutional Affiliation: Educational Policy Analysis Archives

Journal Entry: Vol. 23, No. 60, Pp. 1-27

Year: 2015


  1. Neighborhoods without MPCP participation tend to be those whose children attend higher average quality public schools, and those with higher direct neighborhood effects suggesting that the voucher program draws more heavily from neighborhoods where academic resources in the public sector are scarcer.
  2. Lower performing students and African American students are more likely to leave the voucher program.
  3. Neighborhoods with higher academic quality contribute fewer students to the MPCP; neighborhoods with students attending higher quality public schools contribute fewer as well.
  4. Although the voucher program appears to serve a relatively disadvantaged population with respect to the public school students in the city as a whole, the students who are able to make the MPCP into a viable alternative to public schools may be comparably better off with respect to other voucher participants themselves.
  5. A primary contribution of this paper is to demonstrate that neighborhoods with the highest rates of voucher participation are generally those with particularly disadvantaged residential populations. On a variety of measures – race, income and family structure among them – the program draws from precisely those neighborhoods one would expect in a scenario in which the MPCP was serving residents most in need.
  6. In considering who makes use of a school choice program, policymakers should pay at least as much attention to who continues to participate as well.

Scholarship Type Journal Article Empirical Research

Keywords: Choice, Neighborhood, Segregation, Social Mobility, Vouchers

Regions Midwest

Methodologies: Quantitative

Research Designs: Secondary Survey Data

Method of Analysis: Descriptive Statistics, Logistic Regression, Multilevel Models

Sampling Frame: Students in Milwaukee Public Schools elementary and middle schools

Sample Types: Random

Unit of Analysis: Neighborhood, School, Student

Data Types: Quantitative-Panel Data

Data Description:


Entry Created at: 2016-04-19 22:44:46 UTC
Last Update: 2016-09-10 01:01:42 UTC