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Parents and communities

Adam D. Nowak, Frank Perrone, Patrick S. Smith.

Faced with decreasing funds and increasing costs, a growing number of school districts across the United States are switching to four-day school weeks (4DSWs). Although previously used only by rural districts, the policy has begun to gain traction in metropolitan districts. We examine homeowner, teacher, and student outcomes in one of the first metropolitan school districts to adopt the 4DSW. We find 2 to 4 percent home price declines relative to surrounding school districts, a 5 percent decrease in teacher retention for experienced teachers, and a 0.2 to 0.3 standard deviation decrease in student test scores. These results suggest the decision to adopt a 4DSW in a metropolitan setting should not be taken lightly.

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Kirsten Slungaard Mumma.

Most public schools have a library on site, but little is known about the quality or content of school library programs. I use web-scraping techniques to collect original data on hundreds of titles in over 6,600 school libraries to identify patterns in library resources and content. Three primary findings emerge. First, gaps exist in library resources and collection quality, particularly between schools in low- and high-income areas. Second, although books with “controversial content” are widely available, the prevalence of these titles is related to local politics, state laws, and social environments. Libraries in conservative areas are less likely to have books that deal with LGBTQ+ issues, race/racism, or abortion and more likely to have discontinued Dr. Seuss and Christian fiction titles. Third, book challenges in the 2021-22 school year have had “chilling effects” on the acquisition of new LGBTQ+ content.

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Carycruz Bueno, Lindsay C. Page, Jonathan Smith.

We investigate whether and how Achieve Atlanta’s college scholarship and associated services impact college enrollment, persistence, and graduation among Atlanta Public School graduates experiencing low household income.  Qualifying for the scholarship of up to $5,000/year does not meaningfully change college enrollment among those near the high school GPA eligibility thresholds. However, scholarship receipt does have large and statistically significant effects on early college persistence (i.e., 14%) that continue through BA degree completion within four years (22%).  We discuss how the criteria of place-based programs that support economically disadvantaged students may influence results for different types of students.

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Bobby Chung, Liwen Chen, Guangwha Wang.

Increased exposure to gender-role information affects a girl's educational performance. Utilizing the classroom randomization in Chinese middle schools, we find that the increased presence of stay-at-home peer mothers significantly reduces a girl's performance in mathematics. This exposure also cultivates gendered attitudes towards mathematics and STEM professions. The influence of peer mothers increases with network density and when the girl has a distant relationship with her parents. As falsification tests against unobserved confounding factors, we find that the exposure to stay-at-home peer mothers does not affect boys' performance, nor do we find that stay-at-home peer fathers affect girls' outcomes.

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Alex Eble, Maya Escueta.

How much does family demand matter for child learning in settings of extreme poverty? In rural Gambia, families with high aspirations for their children’s future education and career, measured before children start school, go on to invest substantially more than other families in the early years of their children’s education. Despite this, essentially no children are literate or numerate three years later. When villages receive a highly-impactful, teacher-focused supply-side intervention, however, children of these families are 25 percent more likely to achieve literacy and numeracy than other children in the same village. Furthermore, improved supply enables these children to acquire other higher-level skills necessary for later learning and child development. We also document patterns of substitutability and complementarity between demand and supply in generating learning at varying levels of skill difficulty. Our analysis shows that greater demand can map onto developmentally meaningful learning differences in such settings, but only with adequate complementary inputs on the supply side.

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Lindsey Rose Bullinger, Maithreyi Gopalan, Caitlin Lombardi.
Publicly funded adult health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has had positive effects on low-income adults. We examine whether the ACA’s Medicaid expansions influenced child development and family functioning in low-income households. We use a difference-in-differences framework that exploits cross-state policy variation and focus on children in low-income families from a nationally representative, longitudinal sample followed from kindergarten to fifth grade. The ACA Medicaid expansions improved children’s reading test scores by approximately 2 percent (0.04 SD). Potential mechanisms for these effects within families are more time spent reading at home, less parental help with homework, and eating dinner together. We find no effects for children’s math test scores or socioemotional skill development.

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Emily Rauscher, Haoming Song.

Infant sex ratios that differ from the biological norm provide a measure of gender status inequality that is not susceptible to social desirability bias. Ratios may become less biased with educational expansion through reduced preference for male children. Alternatively, bias could increase with education through more access to sex-selective medical technologies. Using National Vital Statistics data on the population of live births in the U.S. 1969-2018, we examine trends in infant sex ratios by parental race/ethnicity, education, and birth parity over 5 decades. We find son-biased infant sex ratios among Chinese and Asian Indian births that persist in recent years and regressions suggest son-biased ratios among births to Filipino and Japanese mothers with less than high school education. Infant sex ratios are more balanced at higher levels of maternal education,  particularly when both parents are college educated. Results suggest greater equality of gender status with higher education in the U.S.

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Umair Ali.

Over the past few decades, the U.S. has received a consistent and increasing influx of immigrants into the nation. Immigration poses challenges relating to diversity, inclusion and cohesion in education systems, including K-12 education. In the context of immigration, the theory of native flight argues that U.S. born populations move away from neighborhoods when an increasing number of immigrants move in. I test the theory of native flight in the context of K-12 school enrollments, by examining the impact of immigrant influx on public, private and public charter school enrollments, differentiating across U.S. born races and ethnicities. To do so, I merge yearly school enrollment measures from the common core of data (CCD) with immigration data from the American Community Survey (ACS) over the years 2005-2019. Using an instrumental variables approach (2SLS) to address potentially endogenous settlement patterns of immigrants into Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), I find that students of U.S. born race/ethnicities display heterogeneous enrollment responses to immigrant influx. Shares of White students and Black students in public non-charter schools decrease significantly in response to an increase in immigration. At the same time, the shares of Hispanic students and Asian students increase significantly in public non-charter schools. Analogous estimates for native flight into private schools lend further credence to public school estimates. Across private schools, the share of White students increases significantly in response to immigration. The share of Black students decreases across private schools as well, signaling a crowding-out effect. There are two key implications. First, significant White flight from the public-school system still exists over the past decade and a half. Second, while the increasing shares of White students in private schools might compensate for White students leaving the public school system, the shares of Black students are dropping across private and public schools.

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Vladimir Kogan.

How do adult "culture wars" in education affect student learning in the classroom? I explore this question by combining information on nearly 500 school district political controversies with data on state test scores. Leveraging variation in the location and timing of these events as the basis for a difference-in-differences design, I show that student achievement declines in the wake of adult political battles. The effects are concentrated in math achievement -- the equivalent of approximately 10 days of lost learning -- and persist for at least four years. The declines are particularly pronounced for controversies surrounding racial issues and the teaching of evolution. These results suggest that well-intentioned education advocacy efforts focused on salient social justice issues may backfire, producing in unintended negative impacts on student achievement, and raise new questions about the adequacy of local democratic processes for the governance of public schools.

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Christopher Doss, Hans Fricke, Susanna Loeb, Justin B. Doromal.

This study assesses the effects of two text messaging programs for parents that aim to support the development of math skills in prekindergarten students. One program focuses purely on math, while the other takes an identical approach but focuses on a combination of math, literacy, and social-emotional skills. We find no evidence that the math-only program benefits children’s math development. However, the combination program shows greater promise, particularly for girls. Quantile regressions indicate that the effects are concentrated in the lower half of the outcome distribution. We discuss and provide evidence for various hypotheses that could explain these differences.


  • We test the effects of two text messaging curricula that leverage behavioral economics principles to help parents support the math development of prekindergarteners in the home.
  • We find that a program that cycles through literacy, mathematics, and social-emotional skills increases math achievement for girls, while a program focusing solely on mathematics has no effects.
  • Benefits for girls are concentrated on those with weaker performance on mathematics assessments.
  • We posit potential mechanisms based on the literature.

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