Skip to main content


Lauen, Douglas L. (2009). To Choose or Not to Choose: High School Choice and Graduation in Chicago. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 31(3), 179-199.


School choice reforms have been proposed as ways to enhance efficiency, equity, and effectiveness in education. This study examines the consequences of participating in public high school choice in Chicago, a city with a wide variety of choice programs, including career academies, charter schools, magnet schools, and selective test-based college prep high schools. The analysis uses population-level administrative and survey data on all public school eighth graders enrolled in Chicago to estimate the effect of school choice participation on on-time graduation propensity (i.e., in 4 years). Techniques employed to estimate this effect include propensity score, catchment area fixed effects, and multilevel analysis. Results suggest that there is a modest positive graduation benefit from exercising school choice. There are no racial/ethnic differences in the choice benefit, but low-achieving students benefit less from high school choice than high-achieving students. In addition, students in high-poverty neighborhoods gain less from exercising choice than do students in low-poverty neighborhoods. These findings call into question the extent to which school choice enhances equity for low-achieving students and students in high-poverty neighborhoods.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis


Lauen, Douglas L.