Are more egalitarian societies more likely to adopt school vouchers?

Timothy Hicks has a new and recently published paper:

It is argued in this article that the marketisation of schools policy has a tendency to produce twin effects: an increase in educational inequality, and an increase in general satisfaction with the schooling system. However, the effect on educational inequality is very much stronger where prevailing societal inequality is higher. The result is that cross-party political agreement on the desirability of such reforms is much more likely where societal inequality is lower (as the inequality effects are also lower). Counterintuitively, then, countries that are more egalitarian – and so typically thought of as being more left-wing – will have a higher likelihood of adopting marketisation than more unequal countries. Evidence is drawn from a paired comparison of English and Swedish schools policies from the 1980s to the present. Both the policy history and elite interviews lend considerable support for the theory in terms of both outcomes and mechanisms.

There are less gated versions here, and for the pointer I thank the excellent Kevin Lewis.


Seems like there's a Great Stagnation in social 'science' research. Data mining...

"It is argued in this article that the marketisation of schools policy has a tendency to produce twin effects: an increase in educational inequality, and an increase in general satisfaction with the schooling system."

If I trade my dollar for a soda from a vendor, the vendor becomes richer, I become poorer, and we both more satisfied.

Afterward I can complain about this inequality and get, effectively, a post-trade price reduction.

Intro to Microeconomics + Leftism. Let's say I'm shocked.

Your analogy makes no sense.

Your unexplained comment makes no sense.

Jan is right. Thomas's analogy self-evidently doesn't say anything about the inequality in the school system that is being discussed. Said inequality does not result from a transaction between rich and poor students, well-educated and badly-educated students, etc.

I am no leftist and don't agree with framing everything in terms of inequality, but arguments that don't make sense are bad, even if I agree with the conclusion.

The marketization of shools results in the trade. Inequality is increased by letting students self organization on the basis of their subjective valuation (or their guardians, regardless) of education. Inequality increases as outcomes diverge and are measured across one vector. I still think the analogy is spot on.

Add: by definition everyone in trade is made better off, in a vacuum. Ergo regardless of the decision between the dollar and the soda the rigorous school, or No Homework High, everyone is better off, value is subjective. The measurement doesn't capture this - like measuring my trade deficit with my grocer and asserting that he is better off.

Looks very interesting but the first link leads me to the plain Google search page

What is "societal inequality"?

"Luminiferous aether" could be substituted.

What is "marketisation of schools policy" ?

The whole article is pompous, academic leftist musing.

Vouchers are a mild reaction to standard government monopoly on schooling, but the monopoly control strictly remains with vouchers -- especially on all significant aspects of schooling policy. Any possible blame for supposed inequality can only rest with the government, not the voluntary market.

But why does the "marketisation of schools policy" cause an increase in educational inequality? Is it because bright pupils are freed to go to the school of their choice, and hence cluster at top schools? (If so, that's a separate issue from "marketisation").

So students are like little blocks of mahogany and the better schools sand, polish and lacquer them to a deep luster while the crappy schools leave them scratched with damaged corners and a streaked finish. The students themselves, and their parents, have no effect on the quality of their education. It's all up to the schools, good ones produce geniuses, bad ones produce dolts. That's why Harvard grads are worshiped and Idaho State alums dismissed as dullards.

Please don't give anybody any ideas. I don't want my daughter having to finance reparations to a future Stolen Generation of "at-risk" children separated from their biological parents and made to attend special government "Genius Schools."

I don't know of anyone making that argument but if they're all contributors to success as a student, the school can't control the parents or home-life so that's why its not brought up.

There are very smart people who spend enormous amounts of money to send their kids to those schools. I guess they should've checked with you first.

What, exactly, is the difference between the physics they teach at University of Idaho and the physics they teach at Harvard? Is the pedagogy at the latter really that much better?

Lets assume (and I have no reason to think otherwise) that the teaching at Harvard and at UoI are equally close to (far from) optimal. But what does "optimal" mean? If the student intake at Harvard is selected to be brighter than at UoI, then the Harvard courses can afford to go faster and cover deeper topics. A student clever enough to keep up will then gain more knowledge there.

In physics I expect this to translate to differences in the final year, especially in theory subjects. Tough schools will grapple mathematically with quantum, general rel. and many-body physics as grown-ups do it. That's a process that will continue into postgrad, but undegrads who are going to go on should already know about operator algebras, partition functions and parallel transport.

Is it counter-intuitive that societies with higher levels of inequality would be less open to market solutions for education? After all, in those societies the goal of those at the top is to maintain their superior status, no better way than at the entry level for success. This is admission season for colleges, and millions are getting that dreaded rejection letter from the "best" schools. Indeed, the competition for admission isn't limited to national schools such as Harvard and Yale, it extends down to the flagship state universities, where the competition in some ways is even greater. It's a far cry from my experience many decades ago. When I graduated from law school in the 1970s, jobs were plentiful even if the pay wasn't; indeed, low starting pay was a major part of the economics of the law firm: young lawyers would toil for years at low pay in return for security and high pay later. It worked remarkably well, facilitating the kind of stability that clients, and everyone, preferred. No more. Starting pay for young lawyers today is ridiculously high, many times that when I started. Of course, the young lawyers today have no greater knowledge or talent than those of my day, so accommodations must be made in order to make it work. What accommodations? Far fewer job opportunities for the young lawyers, little job security for the seasoned lawyers, and no loyalty from the seasoned lawyers. It's dog eat dog. The practice of law is like being on a treadmill and waiting for that admissions letter. If opportunities are so limited, why hasn't compensation been adjusted in response to market conditions? For the same reason market solutions to education are less likely in a society with a high level of inequality: the top priority for those at the top is to preserve their status.

Authors have used the highly-respected and rigorous "paired case study" approach to push their hypothesis.

It is argued in this article that the marketisation of schools policy has a tendency to produce twin effects: an increase in educational inequality, and an increase in general satisfaction with the schooling system

Perhaps "in general," but in the case of the United States the evidence is the reverse, perhaps largely because government-run school districts are very unequal to start with, being divided up by how expensive a house you can afford. In the US, voucher and charter school policy increases scores at the bottom but has zero to a small negative effect on the top. (This may be because upper middle school parents already live in districts where testing is emphasized, and those who choose charter and other alternative schools tend to look for schools where testing is less emphasized.)

"Counterintuitively, then, countries that are more egalitarian – and so typically thought of as being more left-wing – will have a higher likelihood of adopting marketisation than more unequal countries."

It doesn't seem to me to be counterintuitive at all that a homogeneous having low special interest political activity...would adopt those education policies that actually work to provide education at a reasonable cost.

Stop. Noticing. Things.

"countries that are more egalitarian – and so typically thought of as being more left-wing"

I thought that was the odd sentence.

The problem is, there are now two competing definitions of egalitarian: "treating everyone equally" and "aiming for equality of outcomes". Arguably, this renders the word meaningless.

I would say the latter has pretty much won the day.

The only time the former comes out is when it is time for deliberate obfuscation.

"of, relating to, or believing in the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities."

The actual definition says nothing about outcomes. So the left makes up a definition and any actual usage is 'obfuscation'.

the meaning of words and phrases can be changed by brute force.

If when you pronounce the phonemes or type in the series of modified Phoenician symbols that make "egalitarian" most people assume you mean "equality of outcomes", well then, that is pretty much what it means.

You aren't wrong, but there is another factor.

In a homogeneous, high trust society, everyone is more likely to accept change because they aren't as worried that they will get screwed over.

Well then, if one of the results is "inequality in education," should not the superior eliminate the inferior?

When the "causes" of those inequalities are examined should it not result in steps to eradicate causes of inferiorities, rather than degrade or constrain the superior?

You get to live under the bridge if the voucher is insufficient if you are poor or not of the religion that offers religiously subsidized education and accepts vouchers, or if your school is forced to accept special needs kids but does not get paid for it.

Millions of non-progressives currently attend public schools. And, unlike public schools, catholic schools don't punish victimless sins - like denying the trinity. Deny EO tenets at Progressive High, however...

So, if 10 poor students go to a Catholic school consisting of 100 students, I have to pay the tuition of 100 students that I did not have to pay for before so I could subsidize your religion.

Or those 90 other parents stop getting cheated out of the tax dollars earmarked for education.

And you get the extra value of all those kids getting a better education for a cheaper rate.

And frankly, you are just trading one religion for another.

It is actually very easy for you to check and see that a massive number of religious schools accept students not of that religion.

And for the sake of accuracy, you should amend the last part of your sentence to read, "or if your school is mandated to pay for the newest expensive (but empirically unsupported) special needs fads but is not reimbursed for them.

"You get to live under the bridge .."

This seems like a poor attempt at a logical fallacy to distract from not having an effective rebuttal and not being able to accept the results as presented.

Good School has 80 great students and 20 bad students.

Bad School has an 20 great students and 80 bad students.

Vouchers allow half of the great students attending Bad School to leave and go to Good School.

Good School now has 90 great students and 20 bad students. Bad School now has only 10 great students and 80 bad students.

The performance gap between the two schools has increased but the parents of those 10 great students who got to leave their underperforming school are absolutely thrilled. Their kids can now get into college!

The parents whose children stay in Bad School don't really care (if they cared, they would be pushing for vouchers). The parents whose children stay in Good School are indifferent. They might be happier that their school is more "diverse" or they might be worried about all those new "diverse" people. It's probably a wash.

Nobody loses here.

So what if students and their parents benefit? Why won't you think of poor public school education! It is a precious, delicate thing that deserves our love and respect! This is just the opening volley to SOMALIA!

Taxpayer loses. Say the "good school" is a private school or religious school. I now pay for their education and religious education. And, if you posit students will move, don't forget that a religious school or private school could be capacity constrained...we can only take a few more students, or students affiliated with the religion, and now I am simply transferring money to your pocket.

"I now pay for their education"

Which was not happening when they attended public school.

Quite a funny comment! Very droll!

We _all_ pay taxes for public schools. (Well, let's pretend this is true. We know that a small fraction of the people pay the taxes for everyone else.)

Why should a person with children get more say on how the public's tax dollar are spent than a person without children?

For this reason I am strongly opposed to vouchers.

i have two problems with your argument.

the current default is certainly not "the public" deciding how the money is spent on education, unless you broaden that concept enough to make it meaningless. the department of education is not the public, nor is it very much concerned with the will of the public. local school boards are closer to the public, but not all that close either.

if the money is to be spent, i would like it to be spent by someone who gives a damn about the quality of the product.

Well around me Catholic schools educate kids as well, or better, for half the cost.
Just think of it as being good stewards of your tax dollar.

Simple reason: education is too important to leave to the bureaucrats.

The US has the highest per capita education spending in the world. We shovel nearly a trillion dollars per year into education. In exchange for this money, we get high schools that are about as good as the high schools in Slovakia.

We can't just sit back and hope the government will figure this out for us.

And why do I have to be diagnosed with cancer to get my money back from Medicare? Just give me a check now. I'll buy something I actually need now and buy my own medical care later if I need it.

Are you also opposed to EBT cards that allow the welfare recipient the choice of foods?

Perhaps you should be choosing the meal ingredients for RBT card holders? Deliver a box of rice and beans once a month?

Of course the reason you should support vouchers is that parents have the best managerial incentives to want their particular children to succeed.

Instead, you think you know better. The family should eat broccoli and beets, and they should attend the public school and not the school with the science focus that the child needs.

But if we want to start letting taxpayers control what recipients get down to the individual levels, I doubt most people will be happy with that.

Broccoli and beets! Its for everyone!

What? Your child is allergic those? Nonsense! The state knows best!

Why must the term inequality be used for two very different things?
If inequality increased because some kids improved and others did not (a pareto improvement), this is good. If inequality increased because kids at the bottom got worse, that is bad.

If one were so inclined, one might come to the conclusion that the left wants to conflate these two to make inequality appear to be a broader phenomenon in order to justify all the "solutions to inequality" that they were pushing long before inequality was trendy. But that would just be paranoid...

"If inequality increased because some kids improved and others did not (a pareto improvement), this is good."

It is not clear that those who want to frame everything in terms of inequality actually believe this.

Comments for this post are closed