School Vouchers and Student Attainment: Evidence from a State-Mandated Study of Milwaukee's Parental Choice Program

Joshua M. Cowen, David J. Fleming, John F. Witte, Patrick J. Wolf, Brian Kisida

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

47 Citations (Scopus)


In this article we examine educational attainment levels for students in Milwaukee's citywide voucher program and a comparable group of public school students. Using unique data collected as part of a state-mandated evaluation of the program, we consider high school graduation and enrollment in postsecondary institutions for students initially exposed to voucher schools and those in public schools at the same time. We show that exposure to voucher schools was related to graduation and, in particular, to enrollment and persistence in a 4-year college. These differences are apparent despite controls for student neighborhoods, demographics, early-career test scores and-for a subsample of survey respondents-controls for parental education, income, religious behavior, and marital status. We conclude by stressing the implications for future scholarship and policy, including the importance of attainment outcomes in educational research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-168
Number of pages22
JournalPolicy Studies Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes



  • Public program evaluation
  • School vouchers
  • Student attainment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

Cite this