Private Schooling Benefits Individuals and Societies around the World

This is a Guest Post by Corey A. DeAngelis and M. Danish Shakeel of the University of Arkansas 

President-elect Donald Trump and his selection for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, have called for an expansion of private school choice in the United States through reallocating $20 billion in federal funding.  While giving families additional choices appears to be an obvious benefit to individual students, the broad social impacts may be less clear, especially since there are strong theoretical arguments on either side.

Opponents of private school choice claim that since individual choices are made based on self-interest, families may select into schools that are not in accordance with society’s overall goals.  Alternatively, families may choose schools that are beneficial to society overall out of their self-interest to be productive citizens.  In addition, access to educational choice may increase school quality through a dispersion of power and additional competitive pressures.  Since these competing theories are perhaps equally strong, we must examine the evidence.

We recently released two studies (here & here) that estimate the impacts of private schooling around the world on individuals and the rest of society.  Our studies examine impacts on Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores, political rights indices, and economic freedom indices within countries over time.

Since we have multiple years of country-level data, we can compare countries to themselves over time.  We consider this an improvement on the existing literature that simply examines differences in private schooling across countries.  Additionally, we use new instrumental variable, exogenous short-run fluctuations in the demand for schooling, in order to predict private share of schooling within a country.  We argue that these two methods allow us to make causal statements about our results.

Our studies both find significant evidence to suggest that increases in the private share of schooling within a country over time improve PISA scores, political rights, and economic freedom.  Specifically, we find that a ten-percentage point increase in private schooling within a nation-state leads to around a quarter of a standard deviation increase in PISA scores, and almost a tenth of a standard deviation increase in political and economic freedom indices.  These results, from our preferred model, are shown in the figure below:


While the strength of the theoretical arguments around school choice are uncertain, our results are quite clear: access to private schooling around the world enhances the lives of individuals and the societies in which they reside.


About the Authors

 Corey A. DeAngelis is a Distinguished Doctoral Fellow and a Ph.D. student in Education Policy in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas where he is affiliated with the School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP).  His current research interests include the academic and non-academic outcomes of school choice programs and private schools.  He additionally holds a BBA in Economics and an MA in Economics from the University of Texas at San Antonio.

 Danish Shakeel has an academic background in physics, mathematics and computer science. His professional background includes software engineering, teaching, education administration and management consultation. Originally from India, Danish has been educated in India and the US and he has worked in both countries. Currently he is a Doctoral Academy Fellow and a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas. His research interests include religious schooling, school choice, international education, history and philosophy of education reform and research methods. His work has also been cited in the Wall Street Journal.


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