This review from the National Education Policy Center by William Mathis demolishes an absurd claim about the hypothetical economic benefits of expanding Wisconsin’s voucher program. The review is actually hilarious.

Mathis reviews a report by a voucher proponent published by a libertarian, pro-voucher thinky tank, claiming that expansion of the state’s voucher program would increase the number of college graduates, increase personal wealth, and add billions to the state’s coffers. The report relies on “peer-reviewed” studies by the same author, published in pro-choice, libertarian journals that support vouchers.

Mathis writes:

There exist countless articles on school choice, ranging from general interest publications to peer-reviewed professional articles in prestigious journals. Yet the limited references in this report are drawn from a narrow, non-representative slice of the field. Eleven of the 12 selections in the bibliography are drawn from raw data sources (e.g., the Bureau of Labor Statistics) or pro-school-choice articles. The one exception is the Brookings brief, which is the basis of the human-capital claims and numbers (i.e., the claimed benefits of moving an individual from a high school graduate to a college graduate).
Yet the report overtly appeals to the strength of peer-reviewed articles to buttress its claims (p. 7).

From page 2 of the report:

This study estimates the economic impact from expanding Wisconsin’s parental choice programs by using similar methods to previous studies, the first of which has already been published in a peer-reviewed journal (Flanders & DeAngelis 2018a; Flanders & DeAngelis 2018b; DeAngelis and Flanders 2019).

Note that all three pieces are co-authored by the author of the Ripple Effect. Looking at the report’s reference section, we find that these are cites not known to peer-reviewed publi- cations, but to Tennessee’s free-market Beacon Center, to something called “School Sys- tems Reform Studies,” and to the Mississippi State University Institute for Market Studies. Searching online, one finds that the School Systems Reform Studies piece was indeed sub- sequently published in the Journal of School Choice,5 a common venue for articles touting vouchers. The paper does later cite to a peer-reviewed article that offers some support for the claim that Milwaukee voucher students are more likely to graduate high school. How- ever, this study itself has some serious limitations. Fifty-six percent (56%) of the original 6 of 12
sample were no longer enrolled in a voucher program by the time they should have been in the 12th grade. Furthermore, “Only one of the findings could be considered statistically significant at conventional levels.”

Mathis quite correctly points out that 56% of the students who enter voucher schools drop out before graduation and return to public schools, so the “higher” graduation rate from voucher schools consists of the 44% who survived.

This is a worthwhile read, if only for the laughs at the struggle of voucher proponents to ignore the multiple studies of the negative effects of vouchers from D.C., Louisiana, Indiana, and Ohio.