Study: Suicide Rates Drop After School Choice Laws Adopted

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A study published December 3 has found significant declines in the suicide rate of adolescents in the wake of the enactment of laws that allow school choice.

Published at the journal School Effectiveness and School Improvement, the study’s authors, the Cato Institute’s Corey DeAngelis and economist Angela Dills, noted their work is the first to link school choice to mental health outcomes.

Using two empirical strategies, the researchers analyzed the effects of the enactment of state voucher and charter school laws on adolescent suicide rates, and also examined the effects of private schooling on later reported adult mental health issues.

The researchers stated:

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.

The authors also found that adolescent suicides declined after vouchers had been enacted for three years; however, the effects of the vouchers were not found to be statistically significant.

The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal suggested the effect of school vouchers, which allow parents to use state funding for the education venue of their choice, on a decline in adolescent suicides would be greater if more states enacted laws allowing them.

Results of the study also suggested that individuals enrolled in private school experienced better mental health as adults. Those individuals who attended private school were “1.9 to 2.9 percentage points less likely to have a mental health disorder” as adults.

” Dills explained, according to the Journal:

It’s likely that private schools face stronger competitive pressures to provide a safer school environment and improve mental health if they want to remain open. Public schools, on the other hand, are more likely to be burdened with government regulations that make it difficult for them to control discipline policy and create strong school cultures.

The researchers concluded the results support “a causal link between school choice programs, particularly charter schools, and improved mental health.”

“These results add to the literature demonstrating how school choice improves non-cognitive outcomes of students,” they wrote. “Further, as public attention focuses on the mental health of adolescents in the United States, the results imply that increased school choice advances the public goal of improving mental health outcomes.”


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