The Elgar Companion to Public Choice, Second Edition
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The Elgar Companion to Public Choice, Second Edition

Edited by William F. Shughart II, Laura Razzolini and Michael Reksulak

The Companion lays out a comprehensive history of the field and, in five additional parts, it explores public choice contributions to the study of the origins of the state, the organization of political activity, the analysis of decision-making in non-market institutions, the examination of tribal governance and to modeling and predicting the behavior of international organizations and transnational terrorism.
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Chapter 23: Public choice and public education

Lawrence W. Kenny


Many economists believe that more vigorous competition makes market players more efficient. Accordingly, greater competition in primary and secondary education also should make that sector perform more efficiently. This chapter examines three types of competition: between public school districts, between public and private schools (aided by vouchers), and between charter schools and traditional public schools. We examine the determinants of the number of school districts, which captures the extent of competition between districts, and factors affecting the adoption of voucher programs and charter schools. The evidence on how each form of competition affects the performance of public schools is then summarized. We do not examine a related literature that attempts to ascertain whether students learn more (1) in private schools than in public schools and (2) in charter schools rather than in traditional public schools. We also examine the role of the electorate’s skills, measured by their educational attainment, on how well government functions. We present evidence on the effects of years spent in school on how well informed they are about their US senators and how that information affects the success of an incumbent senator seeking reelection.

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