The Social Context of Vouchers

Authored by: R. Joseph Waddington

Handbook of Research on School Choice

Print publication date:  June  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9780815381464
eBook ISBN: 9781351210447
Adobe ISBN:


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The participation of students in private school voucher programs in the United States continues to grow. Over the past decade, much of this growth is a result of new or expanded statewide systems. This chapter discusses the social context of school voucher programs in six states. The first section discusses the social implications of these programs through the lens of design consideration provided by Thomas J. Nechyba in the previous version of this volume. The second section focuses on evidence that considers the sorting of students into schools as a result of these programs, whether through the mechanism of cream-skimming or increased racial or socioeconomic stratification. The third section highlights emerging social concerns related to voucher systems, including the integration of voucher students in private schools, the match of students to private schools, pushout of low-performing students, student transitions, and peer effects. As new statewide voucher programs have been implemented, researchers, policymakers, and the public should be attentive to old and emergent concerns surrounding the social implications of these programs before considering future expansion to other states.

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