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Feng Hu

Alex Eble, Feng Hu.

Improving college reputation can potentially impact both college choice and graduates’ early labor market performance. We study how one common practice to improve college reputation – colleges changing their names to signal higher quality – affects these two outcomes. Using a large administrative dataset from China, we show that colleges who change their names attract more qualified applicants, with larger effects among applicants who have less information about the college. These impacts persist over time, suggesting that name changes have self-reinforcing effects. To understand how name changes impact college graduates’ labor market performance, we conduct a resume audit study to estimate how listing a college’s new (vs. old) name affects employers’ recruitment decisions. We observe a small benefit for new college names in most jobs, but a penalty in jobs with low skill and experience requirements, which is consistent with employers responding rationally to how college name changes affect student aptitude.

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Alex Eble, Feng Hu.

We study the transmission of beliefs about gender differences in math ability from adults to children and how this affects girls’ academic performance relative to boys. We exploit randomly assigned variation in the proportion of a child’s middle school classmates whose parents believe boys are innately better than girls at learning math. An increase in exposure to peers whose parents report this belief increases a child’s likelihood of believing it, with similar effects for boys and girls and greater effects from peers of the same gender. This exposure also affects children’s perceived difficulty of math, aspirations, and math performance, generating gains for boys and losses for girls. 

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Alex Eble, Feng Hu.

Children routinely benefit from being assigned a teacher who shares an identity with them, such as gender or ethnicity. We study how student beliefs impact teacher-student gender match effects, and how this varies across subjects with different societal beliefs about differential ability by gender. A simple model of belief formation predicts that match effects will be larger for students who believe they are of low ability, and be greater in subjects with more salient societal beliefs. We test these using data from Chinese middle schools, exploiting random assignment of students to teachers. In China, many people believe boys are innately better than girls at math. We find that being assigned a female math teacher helps low-perceived-ability girls and slightly harms low-perceived-ability boys, with no effects for other children. In English and Chinese – subjects with less salient societal beliefs – these patterns persist but diminish. This yields policy implications for the assignment of teachers to students.

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