Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education Policy (PhD)

Degree Level



Education Reform


Patrick J. Wolf

Committee Member

Gema Zamarro Rodriguez

Second Committee Member

Robert A. Maranto


Education Policy, School Choice


Private choice programs provide government resources to qualified families to enable them to enroll their children in private schools of their choosing. “Gold standard” experimental studies have found overall mixed impacts of voucher programs, one form of private school choice arrangements, on student academic achievement. Yet, these results face external validity challenges, as both states, schools, and students can choose to participate in private choice programs, generating selection issues.

This dissertation focuses on the decision-making of states, schools, and students in participating in private school choice programs. The first study estimates the effect of state-level social factors on private school choice program adoption and expansion. Results indicate that political factors dominate predictions of policy adoption, and once enacted the program expansions tend to be driven by educational needs within states rather than their political environment. Also, individual tax-credits/deduction policies show a different logit in terms of program adoption and expansion than other types of private school choice programs.

The second paper examines private school participation patterns in voucher programs in DC, Indiana, and Louisiana for 2014-15 school year. Results reveal that higher tuition levels and larger cohort enrollments, conditions normally associated with high quality schools, help identify schools that are less likely to participate in voucher programs. Further, private schools in D.C. and Louisiana, the two states that have higher regulatory burdens, are less likely to participate in their voucher programs compared to private schools in less-regulated Indiana.

The last paper focuses on student participation patterns in the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP). Specifically, we investigate if there is any systematic pattern regarding program attrition. Little evidence is found that more disadvantaged students, economically and academically, are “cream skimmed” into or “pushed out” of the voucher program. Students with lower baseline test scores, however, do tend to face a greater risk of leaving the LSP, as do students who were assigned private schools farther from home and schools that serve larger minority populations. Results indicate that in the LSP, students’ self-selections into and out of the program are driven more by the program design rather than by their personal demographics.