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J Res Educ Eff. 2015;8(3):419-450.

Distributional Analysis in Educational Evaluation: A Case Study from the New York City Voucher Program.

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UC Irvine, Economics, 3151 Social Science Plaza, Irvine, CA 92617 United States.
UC Irvine, School of Education, Irvine, CA.
UC Berkeley, Public Policy and Economics, Berkeley, CA.


We use quantile treatment effects estimation to examine the consequences of the random-assignment New York City School Choice Scholarship Program (NYCSCSP) across the distribution of student achievement. Our analyses suggest that the program had negligible and statistically insignificant effects across the skill distribution. In addition to contributing to the literature on school choice, the paper illustrates several ways in which distributional effects estimation can enrich educational research: First, we demonstrate that moving beyond a focus on mean effects estimation makes it possible to generate and test new hypotheses about the heterogeneity of educational treatment effects that speak to the justification for many interventions. Second, we demonstrate that distributional effects can uncover issues even with well-studied datasets by forcing analysts to view their data in new ways. Finally, such estimates highlight where in the overall national achievement distribution test scores of children exposed to particular interventions lie; this is important for exploring the external validity of the intervention's effects.

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