School Choice Also Helps Reduce Crime, Increase College Attendance

(H/T Jay Greene) A new study of North Carolina by Harvard researcher David Deming finds that school choice for the poorest students — especially African-American males — leads to less criminal activity:

Importantly, the effects of winning the [school choice] lottery persist beyond the treatment years into the peak ages of criminal offending and beyond. After enrollment in the first choice school is complete, youth attend similar schools and live in similar neighborhoods. Yet the impacts persist for seven years after random assignment. The findings suggest that schools may be a particularly important setting for the prevention of future crime.


The policy alternative to open enrollment in [Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District] was a traditional neighborhood schools model. Considering only the direct effect on lottery winners, I estimate that the implementation of school choice led to a reduction of about $35 million in criminal victimization costs and another $685,000 in incarceration, under relatively conservative assumptions.

Another study co-authored by Deming finds that the school choice lottery boosts poor students’ chances of college attendance by 12 percentage points for girls and increases the chances that boys complete high school by 13 percentage points.

Added together with the growing body of evidence on the positive effects of school choice, this information should send a powerful message to policy makers around the nation.