The State, Socialization, and Private Schooling: When Will Governments Support Alternative Producers?

CID Working Paper No. 272
Lant Pritchett, Martina Viarengo
November 2013


Understanding the institutional features that can improve learning outcomes and reduce inequality is a top priority for international and development organizations around the world. Economists appear to have a good case for support to non-governmental alternatives as suppliers of schooling. However, unlike other policy domains, freer international trade or privatization, economists have been remarkably unsuccessful in promoting the adoption of this idea. We develop a simple general positive model of why governments typically produce schooling which introduces the key notion of the lack of verifiability of socialization and instruction of beliefs, which makes third party contracting for socialization problematic. We use the model to explain variations around the world in levels of private schooling. We also predict the circumstances in which efforts to promote the different alternatives to government production – like charter, voucher, and scholarship - are likely to be successful.

JEL classification: O12, I20, H50

Keywords: development, education, government

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Affiliated Research Program:
Growth Lab