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School choice, Parental preferences, Milwaukee, MPCP, School characteristics


Providing parents choices in education has become an increasingly popular instrument for reforming education in the United States. While existing research on parent satisfaction in private school choice programs shows that parents are satisfied with the schools they have chosen, there is not much to explain their satisfaction. Previous research using parent surveys asks parents to rate and/or grade their school of choice, while comparing their response to their thoughts on their previous public school. This paper reports new empirical evidence that looks to offer a possible explanation for parents’ satisfaction. Using data from the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, we look to analyze whether or not parents get what they choose for when given the opportunity to choose a private school. Our analysis makes use of survey responses from parents that can be matched to students and then matched to principals. In total, there were 7,338 parents who received a survey. Of these, 3,226 parents completed a survey. In total, there were 1,868 students who responded to surveys. Parents were matched to MPCP students using a unique child ID, resulting in 1,856 parents who were matched to students. These were then matched to principals representing 123 schools participating in the MPCP. Our analysis of the MPCP examines the probability of a parent choosing a school that ranked at least above average on the specific characteristic they had listed as most important to their school choice. Since a school having a specific characteristic is a binary variable, we used Logit as the functional form of the regression equation in order to estimate the probability that parents get what they choose for.