Date of Original Version
Abstract or Description
We develop a theoretical and computational model of school choice and achievement that embeds information asymmetries in the provision of education. Because school effort is unobservable to households and policymakers, schools have an incentive to under provide effort. This moral hazard affects both public and private schools, although public schools are subject to an additional distortion because of limited competition and fixed funding. Household monitoring of schools can mitigate moral hazard, but some households may free-ride on the monitoring of others. Using our calibrated model we simulate two policies aimed at raising achievement: public monitoring of public schools and private school vouchers. Our results indicate that in large scale settings no single tool may suffice. The reason is twofold: a) no tool raises achievement or welfare for all households; and b) since the extent of moral hazard is endogenous, the application of each tool has unintended consequences that limit its own effectiveness. Results also indicate that setting the policy parameters for public schools at the levels preferred by the majority of households may mitigate the distortions. Nonetheless, the current actual values of these parameters seem to match more closely the preferences of public schools than the preferences of parents.
Journal of Public Economics , 96, 237-254.