Housing Market Wealth, School Choice, and Student Outcomes

Project: Research project

Project Details


Two specific projects I wish to pursue are as follows: (1) Housing market wealth, school choice, and student outcomes: I have been actively studying the effects of the changes in housing market wealth associated with the Great Recession on student test scores in Florida. I have been finding results that surprise some people at first glance – that students in families that were “underwater” during the housing market crash actually did better on state tests than those Florida families who were less financially strained by the housing market crash. My initial findings suggest an explanation – those who were “underwater” in the housing market moved away from poor-quality schools in the neighborhood where they bought homes to better-quality schools in other neighborhoods. While a financial crisis-induced move is a traumatic event that is absolutely not something that one would ever hope for, or suggest as policy, these findings indicate one small silver lining in a terrible time in recent American history. With funding from the Charles Koch Foundation, I propose to take a deeper dive into this question, by investigating whether low-income Florida families with more public and private school choice options were more able to successfully weather the Great Recession than did low-income Florida families with fewer school options. Specifically, I will investigate the interaction between exposure to Great Recession impacts and exposure for additional school choice is positive (suggesting that school choice moderated the impacts of the Great Recession) or negative (suggesting that school choice exacerbated the impacts of the Great Recession). (2) Effects of school voucher participation in Ohio on college attendance and success: A number of recent studies in states such as Indiana, Louisiana, and Ohio have shown that students participating in school voucher programs tend to perform worse on state standardized tests than do eligible students remaining in traditional public schools. (My research in Ohio, for instance, was published as Figlio and Karbownik, 2016, and similar findings are present in a number of other locations.) But, as I pointed out in that research, while it could be the case that students actually do worse in voucher schools than in the public schools they left, it’s also the case that this is not an apples-to-apples comparison, as public and voucher schools face different incentives to perform well on state tests, and, indeed, often parents choose private schools specifically because they do not want their children to be spending as much time preparing for and taking state tests. With this initial grant funding from the Charles Koch Foundation, I will begin to work on directly testing, for the first time in one of these statewide voucher contexts, whether voucher students who appear to be doing worse in private school when measured by state test scores actually are doing better than (or worse than, or the same as) their public school counterparts in terms of college attendance and success. The Ohio Department of Education will work with me to match students in the Ohio data to National Student Clearinghouse data, permitting me to see precisely the degree to which studies such as my previous work and others in Indiana, Louisiana, and elsewhere understate (or not) the benefits of attending a private school through a means-tested voucher by focusing solely on outcomes like state tests that matter more for public schools than for private schools. The answer to this question is crucial for thinking about voucher policy des
Effective start/end date1/1/2012/31/21


  • Anonymous Foundation (VIII) (Agmt 01/13/19)


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