Kirabo Jackson

Associate Professor of Human Development and Social Policy


Jackson is a labor economist who studies education and social policy issues. He has analyzed several important aspects of education policy such as the importance of public school funding on student outcomes through adulthood, the effects of college-preparatory programs on students’ college and labor market outcomes, the effects of educational tracking on students’ academic achievement, and the effects of single-sex education on students’ academic performance. The bulk of Jackson’s work, however, has focused on better understanding teacher labor markets: His extensive work on teachers analyzes the role of peer learning in teacher effectiveness, how student demographics directly affect the distribution of teacher quality across schools, how a teacher’s effectiveness depends on the schooling context within which they operate, how best to measure teacher quality, and other related topics.   

Jackson’s scholarly articles have appeared in leading economics journals such as the Quarterly Journal of Economics, American Economic Journal, Journal of Labor Economics, The Review of Economics and Statistics, and The Journal of Human Resources. His research has been featured in a number of mainstream media outlets, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and others. In 2016, Education Week listed him among the top university-based scholars who are doing the most to influence educational policy and practice. Jackson’s work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Spencer Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Smith Richardson Foundation, and other organizations. Currently, Jackson serves as an editor of The Journal of Human Resources, serves on the American Economic Association's committee on the status of minority groups in the economics profession, and is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Jackson earned his bachelor’s degree in ethics, politics, and economics from Yale University in 1998 and his PhD in economics from Harvard University in 2007. He was assistant professor of labor economics at Cornell University between 2007 and 2010, and then moved to Northwestern University where he subsequently earned tenure in 2012. 

Current Research

Paying Students for Performance. Jackson and Dartmouth economist Bruce Sacerdote are examining the short- and long-term effects from a New York City program that pays high school seniors for achieving a score of  3, 4, or 5 on an Advanced Placement exam. He has also evaluated the Texas Advanced Placement (AP) Incentive Program, which pays low-income and minority students for scoring well on their AP tests. The Texas study shows that schools offering students $100 to $500 for scores of 3 or higher have more students taking AP courses, more scoring well, and more going to college—an increase of 8 percent. In addition, the Texas students’ SAT and ACT scores rose by 30 percent. In a follow-up study tracking students through college, he finds that affected students attend college in greater numbers, are more likely to remain in college beyond their freshman year, and have improved college GPAs. He also finds evidence of increased college graduation for black and Hispanic students.

The Effects of Charter Schools on Teachers at Public Schools. Using data from North Carolina, Jackson is analyzing how the opening of a charter school affects teacher turnover, hiring, effectiveness, and salaries at nearby traditional public schools. By analyzing a variety of teacher outcomes, he hopes to paint a relatively comprehensive picture of how charter school entry affects both the demand for and supply of teachers at pre-existing traditional public schools.

The Effects of Attending Single-sex Schools in Trinidad and Tobago. Existing studies on single-sex schooling suffer from biases due to the fact that students who attend single-sex schools differ in unmeasured ways from those who do not. In Trinidad and Tobago, students are assigned to secondary schools based on an algorithm allowing one to address self-selection bias and estimate the causal effect of attending a single-sex school versus a similar coeducational school. Preliminary findings show that while students (particularly females) with strong expressed preferences for single-sex schools benefit, most students perform no better at single-sex schools. The treatment effect for the typical single-sex student differs greatly from that of the average student. Girls at single-sex-schools take fewer science courses and more traditionally female subjects.

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Jackson, C. Kirabo. (forthcoming). Match quality, worker productivity, and worker mobility: Direct evidence from teachers. The Review of Economics and Statistics, doi:10.1162/REST_a_00339

Jackson, C. K. 2012. School competition and teacher labor markets: Evidence from charter school entry in North Carolina. Journal of Public Economics 96(5-6): 431-438.

Jackson, C. K. 2011. Single-sex schools, student achievement, and course selection: Evidence from rule-based student assignments in Trinidad and Tobago. Journal of Public Economics 96(1-2): 173-87.

Jackson, C. K., and Henry Schneider. 2011. Do social connections reduce moral hazard? Evidence from the New York City taxi industy. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 3(3): 244-267.

Jackson, C. K., and Emily G. Owens. 2011. One for the road: Public transportation, alcohol consumption, and intoxicated driving. Journal of Public Economics 95(1-2): 106-121.

Jackson, C. K. 2010. Do students benefit from attending better schools? Evidence from rule-based student assignments in Trinidad and Tobago. The Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society 120(549): 1399-1429.

Jackson, C. K. 2010. A little now for a lot later: An evaluation of a Texas Advanced Placement incentive program. Journal of Human Resources 45(3): 591-639.

Jackson, C. K., and E. Bruegmann. 2009. Teaching students and teaching each other: The importance of peer learning for teachers. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 1(4): 85-108.

Jackson, C. K. 2009. Student demographics, teacher sorting, and teacher quality: Evidence from the end of school desegregation. Journal of Labor Economics 27(2): 213-56.