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The Advanced Placement (AP) program is nearly ubiquitous in American high schools and is often touted as a way to close racial and socioeconomic gaps in educational outcomes. Using administrative data from Michigan, I exploit variation within high schools across time in AP course offerings to identify the causal effect of AP course availability on college choice and degree attainment. I find that higher income students, White and Asian students, and higher-achieving students are more likely to take advantage of additional AP courses when they are offered, thus widening existing gaps in course-taking. I find little evidence that additional AP availability improves college outcomes for any students. Expanding access to AP courses without additional incentives or support for disadvantaged students to succeed is unlikely to address educational inequality.
While there is a growing literature on family health spillovers, questions remain about how sibling disability status impacts educational outcomes. As disability is not randomly assigned this is an empirical challenge. In this paper we use Danish administrative data and variation in the onset of type 1 diabetes to compare education outcomes of focal children with a disabled sibling to outcomes of focal children without a disabled sibling (matched on date of birth of the focal child, sibling spacing and family size). We find that having a disabled sibling significantly decreases 9th grade exit exam GPAs, while having no impact on on-time completion of 9th grade. However, educational trajectories are impacted, as we find significant decreases in high school enrollment and significant increases in vocational school enrollment by age 18. Our results indicate that sibling disability status can generate economically meaningful inequality in educational outcomes.
At schools with low grading standards, students receive higher school-awarded grades across multiple courses than students with the same skills receive at schools with high grading standards. A new methodology shows grading standards vary substantially, certainly enough to affect post-secondary opportunities, across high schools in Alberta. Schools with low grading standards are more likely to be private, rural, offer courses for students returning to high school, have smaller course cohorts, have a smaller percentage of lone parent households and a larger percentage of well-educated parents. Variation in grading standards changes post-secondary opportunities in systematic ways.
Given the spike of homicides in conflict zones of Colombia after the 2016 peace agreement, I study the causal effect of violence on college test scores. Using a difference-in-difference design with heterogeneous effects, I show how this increase in violence had a negative effect on college learning, and how this negative effect is mediated by factors such as poverty, college major, degree type, and study mode. A 10% increase in the homicide rate per 100,000 people in conflict zones of Colombia, had a negative impact on college test scores equivalent to 0.07 standard deviations in the English section of the test. This negative effect is larger in the case of poor and female students who saw a negative effect of approximately 0.16 standard deviations, equivalent to 3.4 percentage points out of the final score. Online and short-cycle students suffer a larger negative effect of 0.14 and 0.19 standard deviations respectively. This study provides among the first evidence of the negative effect of armed conflict on college learning and offers policy recommendations based on the heterogeneous effects of violence.
Improving education and labor market outcomes for low-income students is critical for advancing socioeconomic mobility in the United States. We explore how Massachusetts public high schools affect the longer-term outcomes of low-income students, using detailed longitudinal data. We estimate school value-added impacts on four-year college graduation and earnings. Similar students who attend schools at the 80th percentile of the distribution are 6 percentage points more likely to graduate from a four-year college and earn 13% (or $3,600) more annually at age 30 compared to peers who attend schools at the 20th percentile. We consider how school effectiveness across a range of short-term measures relates to longer-run impacts. Schools that improve students’ test scores and college aspirations improve longer-run outcomes more.
Four-year public colleges may play an important role in supporting intergenerational mobility by providing an accessible path to a bachelor’s degree and increasing students' earnings. Leveraging a midsize state’s GPA- and SAT-based admissions thresholds for the four-year public sector, I use a regression discontinuity design to estimate the effect of four-year public college admissions on earnings and college costs. For low-income students and Black, Hispanic, or Native American students, admission to four-year public colleges increases mean annual earnings by almost $8,000 eight to fourteen years after applying without increasing the private costs of college. The state recovers the cost of an additional four-year public college admission through increased lifetime tax revenue. Expanding access to four-year public colleges may be a particularly effective way to improve the economic outcomes of low-income students and Black, Hispanic, or Native American students.
Does relaxing strict school discipline improve student achievement, or lead to classroom disorder? We study a 2012 reform in New York City public middle schools that eliminated suspensions for non-violent, disorderly behavior, replacing them with less disruptive interventions. Using a difference-in-differences framework, we exploit the sharp timing of the reform and natural variation in its impact to measure the effect of reducing suspensions on student achievement. Math scores of students in more-affected schools rose by 0.05 standard deviations relative to other schools over the three years after the policy change. Reading scores rose by 0.03 standard deviations. Only a small portion of these aggregate benefits can be explained by the direct impact of eliminating suspensions on students who would have been suspended under the old policy. Instead, test score gains are associated with improvements in school culture, as measured by the quality of student-teacher relationships and perceptions of safety at school. We find no evidence of trade-offs between students, with students benefiting even if they were unlikely to be suspended themselves.
Across an array of educational outcomes, evidence suggests that girls outperform boys on average. For example, in Chicago, ninth-grade girls earn math GPAs that are 0.29 points higher than boys on average. This paper examines explanations for this gap, such as girl-boy differences in academic preparation, behaviors and habits, and experiences in math classes. After accounting for these factors, the gender gap in math grades persists. We, then, examine the classroom-level conditions that reduce the gender gap in grades. The gap is smaller in more advanced courses like honors classes and geometry. Further, boys perform more similarly to girls in classes with male teachers. These findings highlight classroom conditions that are more conducive to the academic success of boys.
Prediction algorithms are used across public policy domains to aid in the identification of at-risk individuals and guide service provision or resource allocation. While growing research has investigated concerns of algorithmic bias, much less research has compared algorithmically-driven targeting to the counterfactual: human prediction. We compare algorithmic and human predictions in the context of a national college advising program, focusing in particular on predicting high-achieving, lower-income students’ college enrollment quality. College advisors slightly outperform a prediction algorithm; however, greater advisor accuracy is concentrated among students with whom advisors had more interactions. The algorithm achieved similar accuracy among students lower in the distribution of interactions, despite advisors having substantially more information. We find no evidence that the advisors or algorithm exhibit bias against vulnerable populations. Our results suggest that, especially at scale, algorithms have the potential to provide efficient, accurate, and unbiased predictions to target scarce social services and resources.
Many policies in higher education are intended to improve college access and degree completion, yet often those policies fall short of their aims by making it difficult for prospective or current college students to access benefits for which they are eligible. Barriers that inhibit access to policy benefits, such as cumbersome paperwork, can weigh more heavily on members of marginalized communities, including racially minoritized students. Such administrative burdens can thus reinforce patterns of inequity. In this paper, we present a conceptual framework for examining administrative burdens embedded in higher education policies that can negatively affect prospective and current college students, especially those who are racially minoritized. With the use of our proposed framework, researchers can improve the understanding of ethnoracial disparities in higher education, inform policymakers’ design of racially equitable policies for higher education, and enable practitioners to implement those policies to promote racial equity.