The Religious Factor in Private Education in the United States

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This chapter provides a brief overview of our theoretical and empirical contributions to understanding the dominant role of the religious factor in private education in the United States. Private, fee-paying education today accounts for 8% of enrollment in primary and secondary schools in the United States, down from a high of 14%, 50 years ago (Fig. 12.1); and about 80% of these private school students attend religious schools, down from almost 90%, 30 years ago (Broughman and Swaim 2013; Fig. 12.2). The low overall rate of private education is largely a consequence of the historically dominant role of local school districts in funding public education in the United States, coupled with socio-economic geographic segregation, which allows for substantial variation in the quality of public schools, and the general absence of tax credits for private school tuition. The further recent decline in private enrollment likely reflects the growth of publicly funded charter schools, as well as court-mandated funding reforms that increased state support for poorer school districts, and a decline in demand for Catholic education.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in the Economics of Religion
EditorsJean-Paul Carvalho, Jared Rubin, Sriya Iyer
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)ISBN 978-3-319-98848-1
ISBN (Print)ISBN 978-3-319-99336-2
StatePublished - 26 Jun 2019


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