Abstract

How useful are “corporate brands” in markets? In theory, brands convey reliable information, providing consumers with shortcuts to time-consuming provider searches. We examine the usefulness of a corporate brand when parental school choice is expanded through K–12 tuition scholarships. Specifically, we evaluate whether Catholic schools carry an identifiable education brand (1) preferred even by non-Catholics, (2) for reasons connected to the brand, (3) signaling largely accurate information resulting in an enduring “match” of school characteristics to student needs, and (4) leading to exit from the program when a Catholic school fails to meet consumers' brand expectations. We test these hypotheses using attitudinal and behavioral data from a scholarship program in Washington, DC. The results largely confirm our hypotheses about the Catholic school brand being attractive, familiar, generally accurate, and, when not accurate, an instigator of programmatic attrition—results that speak to enduring policy issues involving school choice.

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