education savings account, school choice, education reform, crime prevention, program evaluation, civic education
Decision-makers in Texas have proposed an Education Savings Account (ESA) that would allow all families to take a fraction of their public education financing to a school of their choice. If the ESA funding amount exceeds the school tuition level, families would be able to use these funds for other educational expenses such as tutoring, textbooks, educational therapy, online learning, and college costs. While this is may be viewed as obvious benefits to individual children and their families, the impacts on society overall are less clear. We estimate the impact of the proposed ESA on criminality from 2016 to 2035. We use crime reduction estimates from our previous study of the impact of the longest-standing private school voucher program in the United States, along with existing estimates of the social costs of misdemeanors and felonies, in order to monetize and forecast impacts for the ESA in Texas. We find that a universally-accessible ESA could have large benefits to the state of Texas through reduced crime over the first 20 years of the program. Specifically, we estimate that the first cohort of high school students to experience four years of a universal ESA program in Texas would produce 749 fewer felonies and misdemeanors by the time they become 22 years old, resulting in about $7 million in benefits to society by 2025. The cumulative social benefits would amount to $74 million by the end of 2030 and $194 million by the end of 2035.
DeAngelis, C. A., & Wolf, P. J. (2016). Whether to Approve an Education Savings Account Program in Texas: Preventing Crime Does Pay. Education Reform Faculty and Graduate Students Publications. Retrieved from https://scholarworks.uark.edu/edrepub/20