More Charter Schools, Less Teen Suicide

School choice allows families to choose schools that are more suited to their children. These choices may affect non-academic outcomes, including students’ mental health. We empirically examine the relationship between school choice and mental health using two methods. First, we use difference-in-differences to estimate the effects of state voucher and charter school laws on adolescent suicide rates. States adopting charter school laws witness declines in adolescent suicides, whereas private school voucher laws are generally not associated with statistically significant changes in suicides. Second, we use survey data to estimate the effects of private schooling on adult mental health. Controlling for a post-baseline measure of mental health and a variety of individual characteristics, the estimates suggest that private schooling reduces the likelihood that individuals report having mental health issues as adults.

This is the abstract of Corey A. DeAngelis and Angela K. Dills, “The effects of school choice on mental health,” School Effectiveness and School Improvement, December 3, 2020.

Here’s one of the key paragraphs:

Across all specifications, the estimated effect of a charter school law is robust: States adopting charter schools witnessed declines in adolescent suicide rates. The estimated effect of a charter school law translates to about a 10% decrease in the suicide rate among 15- to 19-year-olds. Voucher programs, tax credit scholarships, and ESAs assist 468,199 students (EdChoice, 2019c); charter schools enrolled more than 6 times as many students, 2.9 million, in 2015 (National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, 2015). The larger number of students affected by charter schools suggests more potential for affecting children’s outcomes.

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