Year of Publication

2007

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Economics

First Advisor

Christopher Bollinger

Second Advisor

William Hoyt

Abstract

Studies focusing on Catholic schools as a proxy for all private education or all private religious education miss important variances within the private school sector, especially at the first grade level. The implication of this is that the vast majority of secondary school choice studies are incomplete; the elementary schooling decision of the parents should be included for all secondary school choice analyses. I augment the scope of a households first grade schooling choice by offering a rich model that includes the public schooling option and the most detailed typology of private schools to date: Catholic, Evangelical or Fundamental Protestant, Mainline Protestant or Other Faith, and Secular. Upon selecting a school type, I evaluate a students performance within this selected sector. While critics argue that selection and omitted variable biases generate test score gains for students rather than private school superiority, I include a childs fall kindergarten reading, math, and general knowledge test scores to control for a students knowledge acquired prior to kindergarten enrollment. I examine whether higher first grade test scores are the result of selection into the private sector or preeminence of the private sector. I find kindergarten test performance, household income, and parental education are significant and positive factors in selecting a school. Additionally, household religiosity and the denominational composition in the households home county are also significant determinants of schooling choice. Results from voucher simulations indicate that an increase in private school attendance does not translate to uniform enrollment increases at all types of private schools. White and Hispanic girls display similar patterns for Catholic and Protestant schools while African-American and white girls select Evangelical schools in analogous trends. Findings suggest that, while a students ability is the driving force behind first grade achievement, the type of school attended in first grade does affect a childs test score for all three tests. First grade private school enrollment makes below average achievers in kindergarten into better students in the first grade. Private schools offer no significant benefit for first grade enrollment to high achieving kindergarten students.

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