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Does choice increase information? Evidence from online school search behavior

Michael Lovenheim () and Patrick Walsh

Economics of Education Review, 2018, vol. 62, issue C, 91-103

Abstract: We examine whether changes in the local school choice environment affect the amount of information parents collect about local school quality, using data on over 100 million searches from Greatschools.org. We link monthly data on search frequency in local “Search Units” to information on changes in local open enrollment options driven by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) sanctions as well as state school choice policies including open enrollment, tuition vouchers, charitable scholarship tax credits, and tuition tax credits. Our results indicate that NCLB-driven expansions in school choice have large, positive effects on the frequency of searches done for schools in that area. We find less evidence that state choice policies affect online search behavior, however search frequency also increases when charter school penetration in a given area rises. These estimates suggest that the information parents have about local schools is endogenous to the choice environment they face, and that parental information depends not just on the availability of data but also the incentive to seek and use it.

Date: 2018
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