Graduating from a Charter School Can Boost Students’ Future Earnings

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A report published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management presents the first large-scale study on charter schools’ effects on future earnings. The study shows that charter school graduates earn more income as adults than students who attended district-run public high schools.

The researchers used data from across the state of Florida and found that the maximum annual earnings were about $2,300 higher for charter school graduates when they reached ages 23-25. This means 12 percent higher earnings compared to their peers who graduated from district-run high schools.

In addition to the findings about future earnings, the study also confirmed earlier research that found that students who attend a charter high school are 7 to 15 percentage points more likely to graduate from high school and 8 to 10 percentage points more likely to matriculate to college.

This report continues a methodology developed in earlier iterations of this study, which compares students who were enrolled in charter schools in 8th grade, and subsequently enrolled in either a charter school or switched to a district-run public school for the high school level. Therefore, all the students included in the study sample had previously shown the disposition to enroll in a charter school.

While the study utilized a strong methodology to confirm long-term educational outcomes, it does not answer the ‘how’ of charter schools’ success. One of the study’s co-authors suggests, “Perhaps charter schools are trying to focus on promoting life skills like grit, persistence, self-control, and conscientiousness. But more research would be needed to test this hypothesis,” said Ron W. Zimmer.