Does School Choice Reduce Crime?, by David J. Deming.

Evaluations of school-reform measures typically focus on the outcomes that are most easily quantified, namely, test scores, as a proxy for long-term societal benefit. But there are at least two reasons we might want to look beyond test scores and other school-based outcome measures. First, there is evidence that schools facing accountability pressures may be able to raise student test scores through methods that do not translate into long-term improvements in skills or educational attainment, by engaging in test-prep activities or by cheating, for example. Second, even in the absence of such behaviors, the correlation between test-score gains and improvements in long-term outcomes has not been conclusively established. Studies of early-childhood and school-age interventions often find long-term impacts on such outcomes as educational attainment, earnings, and criminal activity despite nonexistence or “fade-out” of test-score gains. In other words, programs can yield long-term benefits without raising test scores, and test-score gains are no guarantee that impacts will persist over time.

In this study, . Many of the schools chosen by the students were “better” on traditional indicators, such as student test scores and teacher characteristics. All of them, however, were preferred by the applicant over the default option. The analysis therefore sheds light on whether efforts to expand school choice can be an effective crime-prevention strategy, particularly when disadvantaged students can gain access to “better” schools.

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