Voucher programs are seen as an appealing allocation mechanism for education and vocational training programs. Yet, research on the effectiveness of vouchers is scarce and the results of the available studies are often ambiguous. The aim of this paper is to systematically review studies on the effectiveness of voucher training programs, to provide a summary of their findings and to draw some lessons on best practices.
We have limited our study selection to quantitative evaluation studies whose primary outcomes of interest were utilization/redemption of training vouchers, participation and completion of training as well as labour market outcomes (earnings, employability, job mobility/stability). For comparability of results we have only selected studies that have used either an experimental setting through randomized assignment of vouchers or any other quantitative techniques to identify causal effects. Our final selection consisted of fifteen studies evaluating the outcomes of seven different voucher programs in different countries.
Our review shows that there is no real agreement on the effectiveness of training vouchers on employment and earnings. Some even find a negative effect in the short run. The evidence shows that some subgroups of treated individuals (like individuals not holding a vocational degree and those participating in a degree program) may benefit more but they also redeem the vouchers less frequently. There is also some indicative evidence that such programs may come with a relatively high deadweight loss. Longer time horizons are needed to better estimate the effects.