In 2003 Kenya abolished user fees in all government primary schools. We show that this policy contributed to a shift in demand away from free schools, where net enrolment stagnated after 2003, toward fee-charging private schools, where both enrolment and fee levels grew rapidly after 2003. These shifts had mixed distributional consequences. Enrolment by poorer households increased, but segregation between socio-economic groups also increased. We find evidence that the shift in demand toward private schooling was driven by more affluent households who (i) paid higher ex ante fees and thus experienced a larger reduction in school funding, and (ii) exited public schools in reaction to increased enrolment by poorer children.
Bold, T.; Kimenyi, M.; Mwabu, G.; Sandefur, J. Can Free Provision Reduce Demand for Public Services? Evidence from Kenyan Education. The World Bank Economic Review (2014) : [DOI: 10.1093/wber/lht038]