"The Long-Run Impacts of Same-Race Teachers," with Seth Gershenson, Cassandra Hart, Constance Lindsay, and Nicholas Papageorge. Conditionally accepted, American Economic Journal: Economic Policy. NBER working paper.
We examine the long-run impacts of exposure to a Black teacher for both Black and white students. Leveraging data from the Tennessee STAR class-size experiment, we show that Black students randomly assigned to at least one Black teacher in grades K-3 are 9 percentage points (13%) more likely to graduate from high school and 6 percentage points (19%) more likely to enroll in college than their same-school, same-race peers. No effect is found for white students. We replicate these findings using quasi-experimental methods to analyze a richer administrative data set from North Carolina. The increase in postsecondary enrollments is concentrated in two-year degree programs, which is somewhat concerning because two-year colleges have both lower returns and lower completion rates than four-year colleges and universities. These long-run effects are also concentrated among Black males from disadvantaged backgrounds, which is not evident in short run analyses of same-race teachers' impacts on test scores. These nuanced patterns are of policy relevance themselves and also underscore the importance of directly examining long-run treatment effects as opposed to extrapolating from estimated short-run effects.
"Quasi-Experimental Evaluation of Alternative Sample Selection Corrections," with Robert Garlick. Forthcoming, Journal of Business and Economic Statistics.
Researchers routinely use datasets where outcomes of interest are unobserved for some cases, potentially creating a sample selection problem. Statisticians and econometricians have proposed many selection correction methods to address this challenge. We use a natural experiment to evaluate different sample selection correction methods' performance. From 2007, the state of Michigan required that all students take a college entrance exam, increasing the exam-taking rate from 64 to 99% and largely eliminating selection into exam-taking. We apply different selection correction methods, using different sets of covariates, to the selected exam score data from before 2007. We compare the estimated coefficients from the selection-corrected models to those from OLS regressions using the complete exam score data from after 2007 as a benchmark. We find that less restrictive semiparametric correction methods typically perform better than parametric correction methods but not better than simple OLS regressions that do not correct for selection. Performance is generally worse for models that use only a few discrete covariates than for models that use more covariates with less coarse distributions.
"School Finance Reforms, Teachers' Unions, and the Allocation of School Resources." 2020. Review of Economics and Statistics, 102(3): 473-489. (With Eric Brunner and Andrew Ju)
School finance reforms caused some of the most dramatic increases in intergovernmental aid from states to local governments in U.S. history. We examine whether teacher unions affected the fraction of reform-induced state aid that passed through to local spending and the allocation of these funds. Districts with strong teacher unions increased spending nearly dollar-for-dollar with state aid, and spent the funds primarily on teacher compensation. Districts with weak unions used aid primarily for property tax relief, and spent remaining funds on hiring new teachers. The greater expenditure increases in strong union districts led to larger increases in student achievement.
"Can Light-Touch College-Going Interventions Make a Difference? Evidence From a Statewide Experiment in Michigan." 2020. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 39(1): 159-190.
I conduct a statewide experiment in Michigan with nearly 50,000 high-achieving high school seniors. Treated students are mailed a letter encouraging them to consider college and providing them with the web address of a college information website. I find that very high-achieving, low-income students, and very high-achieving, minority students are the most likely to navigate to the website. Small changes to letter content affect take-up. For example, highlighting college affordability induces 18 percent more students to the website than highlighting college choice, and 37 percent more than highlighting how to apply to college. I find a statistically precise zero impact on college enrollment among all students mailed the letter. However, low-income students experience a small increase in the probability that they enroll in college, driven by increases at four-year institutions. An examination of persistence through college, while imprecise, suggests that the students induced into college by the intervention persist at a lower rate than the inframarginal student.
"The Relative Returns to Education, Experience, and Attractiveness for Young Workers." 2020. Economic Development and Cultural Change, 68(2): 391-428. (With Emily Beam and Caroline Theoharides)
Understanding employer preferences for characteristics of young workers is crucial to designing effective policies to reduce youth unemployment in developing countries. We conduct a randomized resume audit study, simultaneously examining the returns to education, experience, and physical attractiveness among young workers applying for entry-level jobs in a developing country context. Employers do not value college experience without a degree. Postsecondary vocational training increases the likelihood of a callback, but only for blue-collar occupations typically offered only to male workers. Work experience is valued across most occupations; however, among service-sector jobs with in-person customer interactions, attractive applicants receive 23 percent more callbacks, swamping the returns to experience. Our results can guide policymakers in the design of labor market programs to reduce youth unemployment as well as help young workers make optimal choices to ease their school-to-work transition.
"Housing Voucher Take-Up and Labor Market Impacts." 2019. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 38(1): 65-98. (With Eric Chyn and Max Kapustin)
Low participation rates in government assistance programs are a major policy concern in the United States. This paper studies take-up of Section 8 housing vouchers, a program in which take-up rates are quite low among interested and eligible households. We link 18,109 households in Chicago that were offered vouchers through a lottery to administrative data and study how baseline employment, earnings, public assistance, arrests, residential location, and children's academic performance predict take-up. Our analysis finds mixed evidence of whether the most disadvantaged or distressed households face the largest barriers to program participation. We also study the causal impact of peer behavior on take-up by exploiting idiosyncratic variation in the timing of voucher offers. We find that the probability of lease-up increases with the number of neighbors who recently received voucher offers. Finally, we explore the policy implications of increasing housing voucher take-up by applying reweighting methods to existing causal impact estimates of vouchers receipt. This analysis suggests that greater utilization of vouchers may lead to larger reductions in labor market activity. Differences in take-up rates across settings may be important to consider when assessing the external validity of studies identifying the effects of public assistance programs.
"Does Money Matter in the Long Run? Effects of School Spending on Educational Attainment." 2017. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 9(4): 256-80.
This paper measures the effect of increased primary school spending on students' college enrollment and completion. Using student-level panel administrative data, I exploit variation in the school funding formula imposed by Michigan's 1994 school finance reform, Proposal A. Students exposed to $1,000 (ten percent) more spending were three percentage points (seven percent) more likely to enroll in college and 2.3 percentage points (eleven percent) more likely to earn a postsecondary degree. The effects were concentrated among districts that were urban and suburban, lower-poverty, and higher-achieving at baseline. Districts targeted the marginal dollar toward schools serving less-poor populations within the district.
Media Coverage: Michigan Public Radio
"ACT for All: The Effect of Mandatory College Entrance Exams on Postsecondary Attainment and Choice." 2017. Education Finance and Policy, 12(3): 281-311. Lead article.
This paper examines the effects of requiring and paying for all public high school students to take a college entrance exam, a policy adopted by eleven states since 2001. I show that prior to the policy, for every ten poor students who score college-ready on the ACT or SAT, there are an additional five poor students who would score college-ready but who take neither exam. I use a difference-in-differences strategy to estimate the effects of the policy on postsecondary attainment and find small increases in enrollment at four-year institutions. The effects are concentrated among students less likely to take a college entrance exam in the absence of the policy and students in the poorest high schools. The students induced to enroll by the policy persist through college at approximately the same rate as their inframarginal peers. I calculate that the policy is more cost-effective than traditional student aid at boosting postsecondary attainment.
Winner: Thomas Downes Prize for Best Article in EFP during 2017
"The Missing Manual: Using National Student Clearinghouse Data to Track Postsecondary Outcomes." 2015. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 37(1S): 53S-79S. (With Susan Dynarski and Steven Hemelt)
This paper explores the promises and pitfalls of using National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) data to measure a variety of postsecondary outcomes. We first describe the history of the NSC, the basic structure of its data, and recent research interest in using NSC data. Second, using information from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), we calculate enrollment coverage rates for NSC data over time, by state, institution type, and demographic student subgroups. We find that coverage is highest among public institutions and lowest (but growing) among for-profit colleges. Across students, enrollment coverage is lower for minorities but similar for males and females. We also explore two potentially less salient sources of non-coverage: suppressed student records due to privacy laws and matching errors due to typographic inaccuracies in student names. To illustrate how this collection of measurement errors may affect estimates of the levels and gaps in postsecondary attendance and persistence, we perform several case-study analyses using administrative transcript data from Michigan public colleges. We close with a discussion of practical issues for program evaluators using NSC data.
"Experimental Evidence on the Effect of Childhood Investments on Postsecondary Attainment and Degree Completion." 2013. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 32(4): 692-717. Lead article. (With Susan Dynarski and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach.)
This paper examines the effect of early childhood investments on college enrollment and degree completion. We use the random assignment in the Project STAR experiment to estimate the effect of smaller classes in primary school on college entry, college choice, and degree completion. We improve on existing work in this area with unusually detailed data on college enrollment spells and the previously unexplored outcome of college degree completion. We find that assignment to a small class increases the probability of attending college by 2.7 percentage points, with effects more than twice as large among blacks. Among students enrolled in the poorest third of schools, the effect is 7.3 percentage points. Smaller classes increase the likelihood of earning a college degree by 1.6 percentage points and shift students towards high-earning fields such as STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), business and economics. We find that test score effects at the time of the experiment are an excellent predictor of long-term improvements in postsecondary outcomes.
Winner: Raymond Vernon Prize for Best Article in JPAM during 2013
We examine the impact of wind energy installation on school district finances and student achievement using data on the timing, location, and capacity of the universe of U.S. installations from 1995 through 2016. Wind energy installation substantially increased district revenues, causing large increases in capital outlays, but only modest increases in current spending, and little to no change in class sizes or teacher salaries. We find zero impact on student test scores. Using administrative data from Texas, the country's top wind energy producer, we find zero impact of wind energy installation on high school completion and other longer-run student outcomes.