Cream Skimming and Pushout of Students Participating in a Statewide Private School Voucher Program

R. Joseph Waddington, Ron Zimmer, Mark Berends

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A pervasive issue in the school choice literature is whether schools of choice cream skim students by enrolling high-achieving, less-challenging, or less-costly students. Similarly, schools of choice may “push out” low-achieving, more-challenging, or more-costly students. Using longitudinal student-level data from Indiana, we created multiple measures to examine whether there is evidence consistent with the claims of voucher-participating private schools cream skimming the best students from public schools or pushing out voucher-receiving students. We do not find evidence consistent with the claim of cream skimming. However, we find evidence consistent with the claim of private schools pushing out the lowest-achieving voucher students. This is the first study to examine these two issues within a statewide private school voucher program.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEducational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Author order determined randomly; each contributed equally to this article. This research was supported by the University of Notre Dame Center for Research on Educational Opportunity (CREO) and Institute for Educational Initiatives. We are grateful to the Indiana Department of Education for providing access to the state administrative records and for supporting independent analyses. We are also grateful for the helpful feedback we received from colleagues, including J. S. Butler, Stephen Cornman, Rajeev Darolia, Joseph Ferrare, Joshua Goodman, Alison Grantham, Adam Kho, Jodi Moon, Rob Olsen, Umet Ozek, Barbara Steel-Lowney, Marsha Silverberg, Molly Stewart, Genia Toma, and anonymous reviewers. All opinions expressed in this article represent those of the authors and not necessarily the institutions with which they are affiliated. All errors in this article are solely the responsibility of the authors.

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was supported by a Lyle Spencer Research Award (#201600089) from the Spencer Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 AERA.


  • cream skimming
  • descriptive analysis
  • educational policy
  • elementary schools
  • middle schools
  • private education
  • pushout
  • school choice
  • school vouchers
  • selective enrollment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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