New Study Shows that School Vouchers Boost the Achievement of Low-Income African-Americans

“Harvard, University of Wisconsin and Brookings studied programs in New York City, the District of Columbia and Dayton. African American children did much better on test scores having had advantage of a voucher program.”

ABC News (This Week With Sam and Cokie), 9/3/00.

“Evidence mounts that vouchers do work for kids who use them…study found that after two years, the average performance of black students who switched to private schools was 6% [National Percentile Points] higher than that of students who stayed behind in public schools.”

The Wall Street Journal, 9/6/00.

“The poor students who have used vouchers to escape failing schools also appear to have benefited. African American students who attended private schools scored six percentile points higher than corresponding students who remained in public schools.”

The New Republic, 9/11/00.

“After two years, black students who moved to private schools scored more than 6 percentile points higher on reading and math tests than those who stayed in public schools. That’s a bigger improvement than was found for blacks in a landmark Tennessee study of lowering class size.”

US News and World Report,9/11/00.


Are low-income children helped when they are able to use a voucher to switch from a public to a private school? Recently, a research team that included Patrick J. Wolf, Guest Scholar in Governmental Studies at Brookings, analyzed the results of privately funded voucher experiments in New York City; Dayton, Ohio; and Washington, D.C. The researchers determined that African-American students who used a voucher to switch from public to private school scored 6.3 National Percentile Ranks higher on a combined reading/math standardized test than did comparable African-American students who remained in public school. The evaluation took place after the voucher users had been in private school for two years. The study employed a rigorous randomized field trial research design, where voucher winners were determined by a lottery, in order to control for the motivation and value of education held by both the private school and the public school participants in the experiments. No significant effects of using a voucher were identified for the non-African-American ethnic groups in the study. The Principal Investigator for the study was Paul E. Peterson, Professor of Government at Harvard and former Director of Governmental Studies at Brookings.

To view or download additional studies of school vouchers and education reform,
check out the Program on Education Policy and Governance (
at Harvard University.