hero image
John Singleton - University of Rochester. Rochester, NY, US

John Singleton

James P. Wilmot Assistant Professor of Economics | University of Rochester


Singleton is an expert in public economics and the economics of education, particularly as it relates to school choice.


Areas of Expertise (7)

School Boards

School Finance

History of Applied Economics

Economics of Education

Public Economics

School Choice

Charter Schools



Singleton's research focuses on the finance and equity of school choice policies. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, Papers and Proceedings, Education Finance and Policy, and American Economic Review.

In 2020, he was awarded the Russell Sage Foundation-Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Pipeline Grant to study underrepresented students’ access to—and gains from—selective public high school education.

Singleton is a reviewer for numerous journals and is a faculty research fellow of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Education (3)

Duke University: PhD, Economics 2017

University of Colorado: MA, Economics 2010

Calvin College: BA, Economics 2008

Affiliations (1)

  • National Bureau of Economic Resarch

Selected Media Appearances (5)

What Happens When Educators Win School Board Seats, According to New Research

Education Week  print


Researchers John Singleton, an associate economics professor at the University of Rochester, and Ying Shi, an assistant professor of public administration and international affairs at Syracuse University, conducted their study in California, using a combination of candidate information from election filings and publicly available data about school district spending and students’ standardized test scores between 1996 and 2015 to determine what happened when more educators were elected to school boards. Eighteen percent of school board members in their analysis were educators. “Do our results say, for instance, ‘Don’t elect teachers to the school board?’” Singleton said. “Certainly, our results show that a teacher is associated with increases in teacher salaries, and, if anything, decreases in student test scores. But I wouldn’t go so far as to draw that conclusion. I think it’s more generally suggesting that who’s on the school board and that person’s priorities can certainly matter for students.”

view more

Study: When School Board Members Are Elected, Their Property Values Go Up

The 74  online


With the actions of school boards coming under increased scrutiny, a recently released paper offers a dark rationale for why some run to serve: Money

view more

Charter schools are not all equal

University of Rochester  online


In the 27 years since the first charter school opened in Minnesota, there has been considerable debate about the benefits to students from the opportunity created by an alternative educational option. But in a set of new studies, University of Rochester economist John Singleton argues that maximizing any benefits requires a careful examination of how charter schools are organized and a closer look at the policies that influence their location.

Media Appearance Image

view more

Report Tallies the Cost of NC Charter Boom to Suburban Charlotte School Districts

Charlotte Observer  print


The study found that charter schools had “significant negative fiscal” effects on six North Carolina school districts with rapid charter...

view more

School segregation is back, big time — but the solution is close to home

Salon  online


New research shows that local school boards can have a major impact on the level of racial segregation

view more

Selected Articles (5)

School Boards and Education Production: Evidence from Randomized Ballot Order

American Economic Journal: Economic Policy

John Singleton and Ying Shi


We examine the causal influence of educators elected to the school board on local education production. We find that an additional educator elected to the school board reduces charter schooling and increases teacher salaries in the school district relative to other board members. We interpret these findings as consistent with educator board members shifting bargaining in favor of teachers' unions.

view more

Horizontal Differentiation and the Policy Effect of Charter Schools

American Economic Journal: Economic Policy

John Singleton, Michael Gilraine, and Uros Petronijevic


While school choice may enhance competition, incentives for public schools to raise productivity may be muted if public education is imperfectly substitutable with alternatives. This paper estimates the aggregate effect of charter school expansion on education quality while accounting for the horizontal differentiation of charter programs. We find learning gains that are driven by public schools responding to increased competition from non-horizontally differentiated charter schools, even before those charters actually open.

view more

Test-based Accountability and the Effectiveness of School Finance Reforms

AEA Papers and Proceedings

John Singleton, Christian Buerger, and Seung Hyeong Lee


A recent literature provides new evidence that school resources are important for student outcomes. This paper examines whether school accountability systems that incentivize performance raise the efficiency with which additional resources get spent. The results show that finance-reform-induced increases in student performance are driven by those states where the reform was accompanied by the presence of test-based accountability.

view more

The Fiscal Externalities of Charter Schools: Evidence from North Carolina

Education Finance and Policy

John Singleton and Helen F. Ladd


A significant criticism of the charter school movement is that funding for charter schools diverts money away from traditional public schools. The magnitude of such adverse fiscal externalities depends in part on the nature of state and local funding policies. We find a large and negative fiscal impact in excess of $500 per traditional public school pupil in our one urban school district, which translates into an average fiscal cost of about $3,600 for each student enrolled in charter schools. We estimate comparable to somewhat larger fiscal externalities per charter school pupil for two nonurban districts.

view more

Incentives and the Supply of Effective Charter Schools

American Economic Review

John Singleton


Charter school funding is typically set by formulas that provide the same amount for students regardless of advantage or need. I present evidence that this policy skews the distribution of students served by charters toward low-cost populations by influencing where charter schools open and whether they survive. The results indicate that a cost-adjusted funding formula would increase the share of disadvantaged students in charter schools with little reduction in aggregate effectiveness.

view more