Government Privatization and Political Participation: The Case of Charter Schools
No 6651, Working Paper from Department of Economics, University of Pittsburgh
Governments around the world have privatized public services in the name of efficiency andcitizen empowerment, but some argue that privatization could also affect citizen participation indemocratic governance. We explore this possibility by estimating the impact of charter schools(which are publicly funded but privately operated) on school district elections. The analysisindicates that the enrollment of district students in charter schools reduced the number of votescast in district school board contests and, correspondingly, reduced turnout in the odd-yearelections in which those contests are held. This impact is concentrated in districts that servelow-achieving, impoverished, and minority students, leading to a modest decline in the share ofvoters in those districts who are black and who have children. There is little evidence that charterschool expansion affected the outcomes of school board elections or turnout in other elections
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