The Public Benefit of Private Schooling: Test Scores Rise When There Is More of It

Corey DeAngelis:

The potential benefits of increased access to private school choice programs in the United States remain a hot topic in educational policy. According to economic theory, private schooling should improve student achievement by increasing competitive pressures on educators to provide high-quality educational experiences. In addition, since children have differing interests, abilities, and learning styles, private school choice would allow for an improved match between educators and students.

To see if these market benefits materialize, I examine the effect that increased access to private schooling has on international student test scores in 52 countries around the world. Notably, this study establishes causal relationships by comparing these countries to themselves over time while controlling for any fluctuations in gross domestic product, government expenditures, population, school enrollment, life expectancy, and infant mortality. I find that a 1 percentage point increase in the private share of total primary schooling enrollment would lead to moderate increases in student math, reading, and science achievement within nations.