Date of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Abigail Payne


Stephen Jones



Committee Member

Martin Dooley


Education has become increasingly important in today’s society. In the three essays of this dissertation, I analyze the impacts of government education policies on elementary and high school students in Ontario.

The first two essays measure the costs and benefits of programs that allow students to choose from a wider range of high schools. Theoretically, increased choice could benefit students since schools might compete for students by improving their productivity. The third essay of this dissertation, coauthored with Jean Eid and Christine Neill, examines the impacts on students of a switch from half-day to full-day kindergarten.

In the first essay (Chapter 2), I document that students living in areas with more choice are more likely to apply to university. These outcomes seem to be due to competition between Public and Catholic school boards. I find that students attending public schools are more likely to apply to university when they are surrounded by more Catholic schools (and vice versa).

In Chapter 3, I examine a potentially negative outcome of increased choice. I find that it is the brightest students (as measured by their standardized test scores) who are the most likely to take up the choice and opt in to a different school. These bright students move to what are perceived to be the better schools, leaving behind weaker students at poorer schools. If peer effects are important, this has the potential to be harmful for weaker students.

In Chapter 4, my coauthors and I measure the impact of full-day kindergarten on standardized test scores once the students are in grades 3 and 6. We find that this universal program had no effect on the overall likelihood that a student passes these standard tests; however, we do observe some small improvements for students living in low-income and low-education neighbourhoods.

McMaster University Library