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Working Paper No. 1472

Independent-School Competition and Sweden's Performance in TIMSS

Working Paper
Heller-Sahlgren, Gabriel (2023). “Independent-School Competition and Sweden's Performance in TIMSS”. IFN Working Paper No. 1472. Stockholm: Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN).

Gabriel Heller-Sahlgren

This paper analyses the effects of independent-school competition on Sweden’s performance in TIMSS, an international low-stakes test in mathematics and science among students in year 8. Exploiting variation in independent-school enrolment shares across counties over time, it finds that increasing competition has improved TIMSS scores, an impact that appears only after 2003 and is driven by for-profit schools. The results suggest that competition both slowed down Sweden’s performance decline between 1995 and 2011 as well as contributed to its improving scores between 2011 and 2019. A simulation based on the estimates indicates that Sweden’s average score in TIMSS 2019 would have been 20 points, or 0.24 standard deviations, lower without the expansion of the independent-school sector.