Milwaukee school vouchers and a decrease in crime are not correlated, expert stresses

The suggestion that tax-subsidized private school vouchers in Milwaukee reduce criminal behavior is discounted in a review of a recent University of Arkansas paper. The paper making the claim, from the university’s “Department for Education Reform,” has several weaknesses, experts found.

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The paper, The School Choice Voucher: A “Get Out of Jail” Card?, used data from the Milwaukee private school voucher program to compare crimes processed through the Wisconsin courts for program participants and a matched sample of students. Although most of comparisons showed no association, the report claims that some subgroups of voucher students were less likely to commit crimes as adults.

The review strongly asserts that the findings from the paper should not warrant any strong claims of voucher effects on crime.

Among the concerns raised:

  • The results are highly variable, with most comparisons showing statistically insignificant results.
  • The methods used do not justify a causal inference.
  • The evidence, despite the paper’s title, is associational, not causal.

In short, a better interpretation of the report would be that vouchers and crime are not correlated.

The paper was reviewed by Clive Belfield, Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY). The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) produced the review with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

WEAC partners with the Great Lakes Center to provide timely, academically sound reviews of selected education-related publications. WEAC President Betsy Kippers sits on the Great Lakes Board of Directors and shares this review which discredits claims that government-subsidized private school vouchers can be tied to reduced criminal behavior.

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