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Ezra Karger

Ezra Karger, Sarah Komisarow.

We investigate the beginning of the school discipline pipeline using a reform in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools that limited the use of out-of- school suspension for students in grades K–2. We find that the reform reduced the likelihood of out-of-school suspension by 1.4 percentage points (56%) and had precise null effects on test scores and disciplinary infractions. This leads us to reject a key argument in favor of early-grade suspensions: namely, that early-grade suspensions improve classroom- level outcomes. For high-risk students, we find short-run increases in test scores that persist into third grade. The reform reduced the Black- white out-of-school suspension gap by 79%.

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Todd R. Jones, Ezra Karger.

Criminal activity is seasonal, peaking in the summer and declining through the winter. We provide the first evidence that arrests of children and reported crimes involving children follow a different pattern: peaking during the school year and declining in the summer. We use a regression discontinuity design surrounding the exact start and end dates of the school year to show that this pattern is caused by school: children aged 10-17 are roughly 50% more likely to be involved in a reported crime during the beginning of the school year relative to the weeks before school begins. This sharp increase is driven by student-on-student crimes occurring in school and during school hours. We use the timing of these patterns and a seasonal adjustment to argue that school increases reported crime rates (and arrests) involving 10-17-year-old offenders by 47% (41%) annually relative to a counterfactual where crime rates follow typical seasonal patterns. School exacerbates preexisting sex-based and race-based inequality in reported crime and arrest rates, increasing both the Black-white and male-female gap in reported juvenile crime and arrest rates by more than 40%.

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Gregory Gilpin, Ezra Karger, Peter Nencka.

Local governments spend over 12 billion dollars annually funding the operation of 15,000 public libraries in the United States. This funding supports widespread library use: more than 50% of Americans visit public libraries each year. But despite extensive public investment in libraries, surprisingly little research quantifies the effects of public libraries on communities and children. We use data on the near-universe of U.S. public libraries to study the effects of capital spending shocks on library resources, patron usage, student achievement, and local housing prices. We use a dynamic difference-in-difference approach to show that library capital investment increases children’s attendance at library events by 18%, children’s checkouts of items by 21%, and total library visits by 21%. Increases in library use translate into improved children’s test scores in nearby school districts: a $1,000 or greater per-student capital investment in local public libraries increases reading test scores by 0.02 standard deviations and has no effects on math test scores. Housing prices do not change after a sharp increase in public library capital investment, suggesting that residents internalize the increased cost and improved quality of their public libraries.

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