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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

NYT gets it wrong on economists and vouchers

Free Market For Education: Economists Generally Don’t Buy It, claims Susan Dynarski, a University of Michigan education professor, in the Dec. 30 New York Times.

“Only a third of economists on the (University of) Chicago panel agreed that students would be better off if they all had access to vouchers to use at any private (or public) school of their choice,” she writes. “While economists are trained about the value of free markets, they are also trained to spot when markets can’t work alone and government intervention is required.”

Slate Star Codex’s Scott Alexander looked at the source, UC’s Initiative on Global Markets: Economic experts who have an opinion, support vouchers by a nearly two to one margin.

Check out the chart: 36 percent of economists agree vouchers would improve education, 19 percent disagree and 37 percent are uncertain. Weighted by the economists’ confidence, 41 percent back vouchers and 23 percent do not, while 35 percent are uncertain.

IGM redid the survey a year later in response to complaints that the question implied all students would benefit from vouchers, Alexander notes in a follow-up post. The new study asked whether vouchers would make most students better off.

With the new phrasing, 44 percent of economists backed vouchers, while only 5 percent disagreed. Weighted by confidence, half said vouchers would improve things; only 6 percent disagreed. Once again, many were uncertain.

I think this is very misleading reporting.

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