Milwaukee School Choice Research Chosen Best Academic Article of 2021

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Participation in the MPCP Lowers Criminal Convictions for the Most At-Risk

The Journal of Private Enterprise recently named “Private School Choice and Character: More Evidence from Milwaukee” as the best academic article of 2021 in their publication. The paper by Patrick J. Wolf, Ph.D., and Corey A. DeAngelis, Ph.D., examined the effects of Milwaukee’s school voucher program on adult criminal activity and paternity suits, using matched student-level data. 

“The study by Wolf and DeAngelis adds to the growing evidence on the positive impact of Milwaukee’s pioneering choice program,” said Mary McIntosh, School Choice Wisconsin President.  She added, “Earlier research shows that Milwaukee choice students graduate at a higher rate than traditional public school students.  The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction also ranks choice schools higher than traditional public schools.”

The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP), founded in 1990, is the oldest school choice voucher program in the United States. It began with 341 students attending seven schools.  It has grown to more than 28,000 students at 131 schools in Milwaukee, and more than 45,000 students at 343 schools throughout the state. 

Wolf and DeAngelis found that exposure to MPCP “in eighth or ninth grade is associated with lower rates of conviction for criminal activity and lower rates of paternity suits by the time students are twenty-five to twenty-eight years old.” Their results showed:

  • 53% fewer drug convictions,
  • 86% fewer property damage convictions, and
  • 38% fewer paternity suits

The positive effects are largest for the most at-risk subpopulations of students: males and students with lower levels of baseline academic achievement. Wolf and DeAngelis emphasize that “avoiding the criminal justice system is critical to the life success of low-income urban youth.” 

Earlier school choice research by Wolf and other scholars shows higher high school graduation rates for MPCP students.  For example, based on seven years of data, University of Minnesota Professor Warren estimated that the graduation rate for students in Milwaukee’s choice program was about 18% higher than for students in MPS.  Warren is a national expert on the topic.

The Journal of Private Enterprise, founded in 1985 is a quarterly double-blind peer-reviewed academic journal published by The Association of Private Enterprise Education. “Private School Choice and Character: More Evidence from Milwaukee” can be read in its entirety at the Journal of Private Enterprise or on the School Choice Wisconsin website.


Founded in 2004, School Choice Wisconsin is a non-profit 501(c)(3) that works to empower parents by developing, supporting, and promoting the ideas and policies that create vibrant, quality options in K-12 education in Wisconsin.

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