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


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.