Recent Education Policy Research
- School Finance, Accountability, and Vouchers
- Education Interventions and Program Evaluations
- Teacher and Principal Characteristics
- High-School-to-College Transitions
- Gaps in Academic Achievement
Closing Persistently Failing Schools
While many schools have succeeded at improving student performance and proficiency rates on the standardized tests mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act, others fail to reach proficiency year after year and face increasing penalties, culminating with required “reconstitution.” This necessitates either dramatically restructuring or completely closing the schools, which disproportionately serve disadvantaged and inner-city populations. Schanzenbach and colleagues Lisa Barrow and Kyung-Hong Park are analyzing longitudinal data on the standardized test scores of Chicago Public School students since 1993. They are investigating how school closures can have an impact on the students actually attending those schools, particularly whether the affected students perform better at their new, non-failing schools. The study will better inform school administrators trying to decide whether to close a persistently underperforming school. This project is supported by a grant from the Smith Richardson Foundation.
While numerous recent authors have studied the effects of school accountability systems on student test performance and school “gaming” of accountability incentives, little attention has been paid to substantive changes in instructional policies and practices resulting from school accountability pressures. This lack of research is primarily due to the unavailability of appropriate data to carry out such an analysis. A study co-authored by IPR education economist David Figlio offers new evidence from a five-year survey conducted of a census of public schools in Florida, coupled with detailed administrative data on student performance. Figlio and his colleagues show that schools facing accountability pressure changed their instructional practices in meaningful ways. In addition, with Princeton’s Cecilia Rouse, Urban Institute’s Jane Hannaway, and Dan Goldhaber of the University of Washington, Figlio presents medium-run evidence of the effects of school accountability on student test scores, concluding that a significant portion of these test score gains can likely be attributed to the changes in school policies and practices that they uncover in their surveys. The study is forthcoming in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, and it was supported by grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Institute of Education Sciences.
School Accountability and Residency
Using U.S. Census microdata, Figlio and his colleagues are investigating whether school accountability systems affect families’ decisions about school choice and about where they reside. Exploiting time differences in the introduction of a state-level school accountability system, the researchers confirm evidence for school accountability systems increasing the likelihood that families will enroll their children in private schools. The researchers also show that accountability systems influence where new residents to a metropolitan area choose to reside. The results are particularly pronounced in those states with low assessment standards, where large fractions of students—and therefore, schools—pass the accountability standards. The results differ by family type. The project received funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Institute of Education Sciences.
School Finance Reform
In a working paper, public finance economist and IPR associate Therese McGuire and Nathan Anderson of the University of Illinois at Chicago examine the important episode of school finance reform in the 1970s and 1980s to shed light on sub-national government revenue-setting behavior and the prevailing theories of subnational government behavior. The early wave of court-ordered school finance reforms of these decades is noteworthy because state spending became perceptibly more progressive in those states subject to the court orders. Existing analyses of this period in state and local public finance have not focused on the implications for state revenues. In their paper, McGuire and Anderson examine how states respond on the revenue side to an arguably exogenous progressive shock on the spending side, finding that the individual income tax became more progressive in states subject to court-ordered school finance reform.
New Parameters for State Test Scores
IES is also sponsoring a project co-led by Hedges that seeks to design new parameters for educational experiments at the state, local, school, and classroom levels. Many current educational experiments use designs that involve the random assignment of entire pre-existing groups (e.g., classrooms and schools) to treatments, but these groups are not themselves composed at random. As a result, individuals in the same group tend to be more alike than individuals in different groups, so results obtained from single district data might be too imprecise to provide useful guidance. This project will decompose the total variation of state achievement test scores to estimate experiment design parameters for students in particular grades in each state. The new parameters will take into account achievement status and year-to-year improvement for a particular grade, as well as demographic covariates. Designs will also differ across different school contexts with a focus on low- performing schools, schools serving low-income populations, or schools with large minority populations.
“No Child Left Behind” and Obesity
Schools facing increased pressures to produce academic outcomes might reallocate their efforts in ways that have unintended consequences for children’s health. For example, the new financial pressures due to accountability rules might induce school administrators to try to raise new funds through outside food and beverage contracts, or schools might cut back on recess and physical education in favor of increasing time on tested subjects. To examine the impact of school accountability programs, Schanzenbach and her colleagues have created a unique panel data set of elementary schools in Arkansas that allows them to test the impact of the federal No Child Left Behind Act’s rules on students’ body weights. They find that schools under pressure from NCLB have about a 0.5 percentage point higher rate of students that are overweight. A follow-up survey of principals also points to reductions in physical activity and the use of food as a reward and source of external funding as potential mechanisms. Understanding how the school environment might contribute to obesity is key since school environments are more within the control of policymakers than the family environment.
School Attendance and Obesity
In a Journal of Health Economics article, IPR economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach and her colleagues investigate the impact of attending school on body weight and obesity. As is the case with academic outcomes, school exposure is related to unobserved determinants of weight outcomes because some families choose to have their child start school later or earlier than others. When this factor is unaccounted for, it appears that an additional year of school exposure results in a greater BMI and a higher probability of being overweight or obese. However, when the researchers compared the weight outcomes of similar age children with one versus two years of school exposure due to regulations on school starting age, the significant positive effects disappear, and most point estimates become negative, but insignificant. However, for children not eating the school lunch, school exposure reduces the probability of being overweight. Additional school exposure also appears to improve weight outcomes of children for whom the transition to elementary school represents a more dramatic change in environment, such as those who spent less time in childcare prior to kindergarten.
Consequences of Pay for Performance
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation represents the nation’s most consequential education reform in decades—and its reach and impact are still being measured. A key component of the policy debate surrounding it has centered on whether the strong rewards for performance under NCLB—and its increasing reliance on measurable performance—should be expanded to other areas of government and the nonprofit world. IPR economist Burton Weisbrod, John Evans Professor of Economics, is writing a book, under contract with Stanford University Press, that will consider the unintended—but foreseeable—consequences of the rising tide of efforts to measure “performance” and then to reward it. Titled “The Perils of Pay for Performance: Not Just ‘a Few Bad Apples,’” the book will cover a wide array of public and nonprofit sector services, such as higher education, hospitals, policing, museums, private charities, and the federal judiciary in addition to K–12 education.
Gains from Early Intervention
In a working paper with Susan Dynarski and Joshua Hyman of the University of Michigan, Schanzenbach examines the effects of reducing elementary school class sizes on college enrollment and getting a degree. Using Project STAR data, they find being randomly assigned to attend a smaller class in kindergarten through third grade increases the probability of attending college. Assignment to a small class increases the probability of attending college by 2.7 percentage points, with effects more than twice as large among African Americans. Among those with the lowest ex ante probability of attending college, the effect is 11 percentage points. In addition, small classes in the early grades improve the likelihood of earning a college degree, and majoring in a more technical and high-earning field, such as a STEM field (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), business, or economics. The paper points to the relationship between short- and long-term effects of an education intervention. More specifically, it documents short- and long-term effects of early education interventions. The actual long-run impacts were larger than what short-run test score gains alone would have predicted. This implies that cost-benefit analyses based on short-run impacts might misestimate the true long-run effectiveness of interventions.
While urban high school dropouts have received a great deal of policy attention, the problem almost always starts much earlier with truancy from school. However, very little is known about the risk and protective factors that lead to truancy—and even less about effective remedies. To shed light on this issue, IPR economist Jonathan Guryan is leading the first large-scale, randomized effectiveness trial of Check & Connect, a structured mentoring, monitoring, and case management program. This intervention focuses on reducing chronic absenteeism and improving school engagement by pairing a mentor with students at risk for dropping out of school. Sixteen mentors, trained in methods for promoting school engagement, began working with 415 students in fall 2011 for two years. The students have a record of chronic absences in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The researchers will then compare the assigned students to control groups of more than 4,000 CPS students within the 24 treatment and control schools. Other data, such as arrest records, will be included, and researchers are conducting personal surveys with students and their parents to pinpoint changes in family structure and dynamics that might contribute to the student’s truancy. The project is supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Institute of Education Sciences, and William T. Grant Foundation.
Urban Education Lab
Guryan and University of Chicago colleagues Jens Ludwig, Steve Raudenbush, and Timothy Knowles created and launched the Urban Education Lab. The idea is to promote the use of randomized experiments in evaluating metropolitan school districts’ education policies and programs. The lab counts more than 40 affiliated researchers from universities around the country, including IPR faculty Schanzenbach, Jackson, David Figlio, and James Spillane. In particular, the lab aims to build relationships with urban school leaders and focus on relevant projects, such as evaluating the longer school day policy brought forward by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard that was implemented in 37 pilot schools in 2011–12.
Why After-School Programs Matter
Hirsch and IPR statistician and education researcher Larry Hedges concluded a three-year evaluation of After School Matters—a nationally recognized nonprofit organization providing out-of-school, apprenticeship-type activities for teens at more than 60 Chicago public high schools. The large-scale project was the first randomized controlled study of a high school after-school program since the 1980s, following 535 students from 10 Chicago public high schools. Although there was no statistically significant difference between students in After School Matters and the control group in the areas of job skills and academic performance, youth in the program engaged in fewer problem behaviors, particularly gang activity and selling drugs. The study also points to enrolled youth demonstrating more “self-regulation,” or the ability to stay focused on achieving goals despite emotional and other distractions. With the help of human resources professionals, the researchers designed a brief curriculum to strengthen the program that included mock job interviews to assess marketable job skills. Support for the study came from the William T. Grant Foundation, Wallace Foundation, and Searle Fund.
Evaluating After-School Programs
In light of the explosive growth of after-school programs in recent years, education and social policy professor and IPR associate Barton Hirsch and his co-authors explore the impact these programs have on youth in After-School Centers and Youth Development: Case Studies of Success and Failure (Cambridge University Press, 2011). The three researchers present findings from an intensive study of three after-school centers that differed dramatically in quality. Drawing from 233 site visits, the co-authors examine how—and why—young people thrive in good programs and suffer in weak ones. The book features in-depth case studies and highlights the importance of factors such as collective mentoring, synergies among different programs and activities, and organizational culture and practices. Hirsch notes the importance of after-school centers as resources for impoverished urban communities, but many centers do not live up to their potential and need to focus on improving positive youth development.
Improving Generalizability in Research
If an education intervention proves to be successful in the study sample, will it actually work in schools outside of the study too? The results of a well-designed experiment can also apply to the relevant population. With the support of the National Science Foundation and the Institute of Education Sciences, Hedges is investigating new methods to improve the generalizability of findings from education research so that results from one study can be used to make statistical claims in another population or place. His work builds on propensity score methods and a database of national covariates to create a statistical approach that uses study samples to estimate parameters of the distribution of treatment effects in an inference population. Hedges will conduct training workshops on using new methods at four national education conferences for other researchers.
Multilevel Methods in Education
In a project supported by IES, Hedges continues his development of improved statistical methods for analyzing and reporting the results of multilevel experiments in education. Many education evaluations employ complex, multilevel designs to account for the effects of clustering—or the fact that students are situated within certain classrooms in certain schools. The project also looks at how to represent and combine the results of several experiments, which can sometimes yield multiple measures of the same outcome construct. The results will improve the precision of estimates and suggest new ways to use the results of randomized experiments in education.
Does it matter who your teacher is in kindergarten? In an innovative study, Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, an IPR economist, and her colleagues at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley test whether kindergarten classroom quality and student test scores affect adult outcomes. They use 1980s data from the Tennessee Project STAR experiment, which randomly assigned nearly 12,000 children to kindergarten classes of varying sizes. The researchers then use tax data to link the students’ kindergarten class experience and test scores to adult outcomes, such as wages and education. Though the students’ test-score boost from small class sizes and high-quality teachers tends to diminish later in elementary school, a substantial impact is found for a variety of adult outcomes. In particular, students randomly assigned to a higher quality kindergarten classroom earned more at age 30 and were more likely to own a home, be married, and have retirement savings than their kindergarten schoolmates assigned to a worse class. Showing that early classroom environments have a long-term impact not captured by standardized test scores, the researchers also point to the potential hazard of relying on such scores to evaluate long-term student achievement. Published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the study was covered by The New York Times.
Do High School Teachers Really Matter?
Research has shown that elementary school teachers matter, but what about high school teachers? Some have just extrapolated the findings from studies of elementary school teachers and applied them to those in high school, but IPR labor economist Kirabo Jackson advises against this. In a new paper, he argues that in high school settings, even with random assignment of students to teachers, there will be bias due to “track treatment effects.” This happens when different teachers teach in different tracks and students in different tracks are exposed to different treatments. These “track treatment effects” might arise due to other teachers, the content of other courses, or explicit track-level treatments, such as honors courses or college-prep courses. To counter this, Jackson outlines a new method for identifying teacher quality effects in high schools, testing it with data on all North Carolina ninth graders from 2005 to 2010. He shows that high school Algebra I teachers have modest effects on student math scores. However, contrary to previous studies, he finds no effects for English I teachers on students’ English scores. The Spencer Foundation is supporting the project.
School and Teacher Matching
Using data from North Carolina and again with Spencer Foundation support, Jackson is investigating the importance of the match between teachers and schools for student achievement. From a sample of mobile teachers, he documents that teacher effectiveness—as measured by improvements in student test scores—increases after a move to a different school. He then estimates the importance of teacher-school match quality for the resulting improvement in student outcomes. Preliminary results reveal that between one-quarter and one-half of what is typically measured as a teacher effect is, in fact, due to the specific teacher-school pairing and is not portable across schools. Moreover, he establishes that match quality is as economically important as teacher quality in explaining student achievement.
Principal Policy and Practice
The Principal Policy and Practice (P3) Study relies on the research strengths of education researcher and IPR associate James Spillane, Olin Professor of Learning and Organizational Change, on school leadership and education researcher and IPR adjunct faculty Michelle Reininger on teacher training and preparation to examine Chicago Public School principals. Studying the issue from a supply-and-demand perspective, they are working closely with both Chicago Public Schools and the Consortium for Chicago School Research to analyze the principals’ routes to preparation, recruitment, and retention, in addition to tracking their career paths. The two investigators hope the study will shore up a significant lack of data and contribute to better school policies, given the principal’s importance in shepherding school improvements. In addition to these analyses, they plan to carry out a broader program of research that could include similar studies in other U.S. cities and a longitudinal analysis of a national survey database of school principals.
Many new education reforms use cash incentives to promote better student outcomes. The Advanced Placement Incentive Program (APIP) is one example. With private donors financing 70 percent of costs, the APIP trains AP teachers and motivates both students and teachers by paying substantial cash bonuses for passing scores on AP exams. So does it work? In an IPR working paper, Jackson examines the APIP in Texas, tracking over 290,000 high school students between 1993 and 2008. He compared changes in student outcomes before and after APIP adoption at the 58 participating schools to changes across the same cohorts in comparable schools that did not adopt the APIP. APIP adoption increased taking an AP course by 21 percent and passing an AP exam by 45 percent. More importantly, Jackson finds benefits beyond the program: For those participating in APIP four years after it was adopted, the probability of students persisting in college as sophomores rose by about 20 percent and earnings increased by 3.7 percent. The pay increases erased the Hispanic-white earnings gap and reduced the black-white earnings gap by one-third. The results imply a per-pupil lifetime earnings benefit of $16,650 for a cost of $450. Jackson’s results suggest that one can raise achievement for students “consigned” to low-achieving, urban schools—and that high quality college-preparatory programs might be a viable alternative to transferring such students to higher achieving schools.
Should College Be for All?
With a grant from the Spencer Foundation, IPR education researcher James Rosenbaum is continuing research on his “College for All” project. While the nation’s high schools have embraced the idea of trying to get all high school seniors into college, little attention has been paid to the processes that increase the number of students who actually go and complete their degree. Rosenbaum’s research team is conducting a longitudinal study of all seniors at 82 public high schools in Chicago, seeking to extend understanding of the varied institutional procedures that shape the high-school-to-college transition process for students. Using data generated by the Consortium on Chicago School Research, it is possible to model trajectories from sixth grade through the year following high school, using postsecondary enrollment information from the National Student Clearinghouse. Results will be used to determine the effectiveness of guidance programs and provide school administrators and guidance counselors with highly relevant information about how to help their students make the transition to college.
Community Colleges and Remediation
Many courses in community colleges are not college courses at all, but remedial courses required because of poor scores on placement tests. Surveys show that many high school seniors and students entering college are unaware of these tests and colleges mostly avoid providing crucial information about them. In a paper co-authored with IPR postdoctoral fellow Pamela Schuetz and IPR research project coordinator Amy Foran, Rosenbaum suggests procedures that could lead to better prepared students and less need for remediation. A large component relies on the community colleges’ websites, as they have become the main source of information about the colleges. Improving them would be easy and inexpensive. The researchers suggest heavy emphasis on not only what the test is on and how students should prepare for it, but why the test is important. Taking the test while still in high school would also benefit students because there is time to improve before entering college while high school skills are fresh. Some states have implemented this reform.
College Attendance and “Coaching”
Since 2005, Rosenbaum has been gathering ethnographic and administrative data from a new college counseling program in Chicago public schools that targets disadvantaged students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. Beyond cost and academic achievement, previous research finds that these students have a lack of college-related social capital. The program helps students overcome these cultural barriers by pairing them with “college coaches,” who advise them on their options for college, demonstrate how to work with admissions counselors, and assist with scholarship applications. Following nearly all Chicago public school seniors through the fall after high school, Rosenbaum and Jennifer Stephan of the American Institutes for Research find that coaches improve the types of colleges students attend by getting students to complete key actions, with the most disadvantaged students benefiting the most, suggesting that targeting social capital might improve the high school-to-college transition for these students. This idea is being implemented in other school systems across the country.
Scholarships and College Enrollment
Rosenbaum and IPR graduate research assistant Kelly Iwanaga Becker are examining the ways different high schools handle the college and financial aid application process. To assess how much money scholarships actually provide and whether they have an impact on college attendance, the researchers compared three types of schools and how they differ in the ways they present scholarship information. In an urban school with mostly low-income students, they find little guidance or structure is provided. Students frequently experienced “scholarship overload,” overwhelmed by the amount of available information. Their examination also included a suburban school with a small percentage of low-income students and an urban school that was mostly low-income, but was college-focused. These schools used specific timetables and deadlines, and they focused on institutional aid rather than private scholarships. This was found to be a more effective strategy, suggesting that encouraging students to apply for private scholarships—which are typically very competitive with smaller financial awards—might derail some students from seeking more attainable sources of aid. The research project is being extended to examine all high schools in Chicago.
How does a prospective college student value attending one university over a similar one during the college admissions process? Northwestern University President and higher education economist Morton Schapiro and his colleagues propose that the difference might be due to educational “goodwill.” Universities, much like businesses, have built up their goodwill over the years through a variety of intangible assets, such as institutional identity and branding, faculty accomplishments, alumni loyalty, etc. Using admissions data from their benchmark institution, Williams College, the researchers test their conceptual framework by examining students who were admitted to Williams College, but chose instead to attend another similar school. By using objective criteria to make “head-to-head” comparisons, they can examine whether a school does better than it “should” based on a range of indicators, thus providing a quantitative measure of educational goodwill. Their analysis does not seek to provide a definitive ranking in terms of universities’ goodwill. Rather, it aims to tease out the intangibles of these institutions’ attractiveness to potential undergraduates, thus accounting for a school’s greater success—or failure—in the market for prospective students relative to other institutions.
Affirmative Action in College Admissions
IPR sociologist Anthony Chen takes an interdisciplinary approach to studying the emergence and evolution of affirmative action programs and policies in the United States. Chen’s latest book project, carried out in collaboration with Lisa Stulberg of New York University, looks at the origins and development of race-based affirmative action in college admissions over the last half century. Based on extensive research from university archives, Chen and Stulberg reveal how administrators at a limited number of Northern schools took the initiative to launch a “first wave” of affirmative action in the early 1960s, inspired largely, if indirectly, by nonviolent civil rights protests in the South. A “second wave” of programs emerged in the late 1960s at the most selective and exclusive institutions in the United States, often as a response to campus-based student protests at Northern schools and to a lesser extent as a response to the urban uprisings of the time. The remainder of their book explains how race-based affirmative action emerged at other schools. It also traces how it fared around the country in the decades thereafter, when it was substantially transformed by a shifting array of social, legal, and political forces that were only partially visible at the outset.
Single-Sex Schools and Achievement
Does being in an all-male or all-female school lead to better education outcomes? Amendments to Title IX regulations banning sex discrimination in education have made it easier to provide single-sex education in the United States since 2006, but little credible evidence exists on how such schools affect achievement. For the first time, the topic was examined within a quasi-experimental design conducted by Jackson. It uses a unique data set from Trinidad and Tobago, where almost all of its 123 secondary schools, including the most selective, are public, and approximately one-quarter are single sex. Jackson compared scores from two nationwide tests to evaluate outcomes, finding that although students with similar incoming characteristics at single-sex schools appeared to perform better, it was due to being admitted to a preferred school rather than a single-sex school per se. Once he accounted for this, there was no effect on achievement for more than 85 percent of students, suggesting that U.S. policymakers should use caution when creating more single-sex classes and schools, as they are likely to have little impact on overall achievement. This article was published in the Journal of Public Economics.
Summer Reading and Achievement
Once children enter school, a reading gap between students of high and low socioeconomic status (SES) appears and begins to grow, likely exacerbated by summer vacation, as low-SES students are less likely to receive continued reading instruction over the break. Guryan and James Kim of Harvard University are leading a five-year, multidistrict randomized controlled trial to implement and evaluate Project READS, Reading Enhances Achievement during the Summer. Already the program is showing promising results, moderately reducing “summer loss” and improving reading skills. The program, developed by Kim, will be administered to approximately 10,000 students in 70 North Carolina elementary schools over the course of the study. Students are sent two books biweekly over summer break. Matched to student interests and reading level, the books are also paired with family activities to support summer reading. Members of the control group receive the books and activities at the start of school. Pre- and post-tests as well as reading tests are used to measure impact. In addition to monitoring student achievement and overall progress, Guryan is also examining different variations of READS that could improve its effectiveness, measuring cost-effectiveness, and seeking to identify those elements useful for replicating and further expanding the program. It is being supported by the U.S. Department of Education.
College for Disadvantaged Students
In an IPR working paper, Rosenbaum and Northwestern graduate student Michelle Naffziger analyze ethnographic data collected at two low-income, public high schools, seeking to understand the subtle cultural elements that impede disadvantaged students, how school staff in a new program try to identify and overcome these cultural barriers, and how students respond. The researchers show that students have difficulties with three specific cultural tasks in the college application process—seeing the pros and cons of the various college options, knowing how to identify which options match their own interests and needs, and knowing which attributes colleges value in admissions and how to present themselves accordingly. They consider how cultural capital translators could help students understand these requirements and overcome the associated barriers.
Social Ties for Advice and Information
In schools and school districts, social relations can be a source of various resources including trust, opportunities for joint learning, and incentives for improvement through peer pressure or sense of obligation. In ongoing work funded by the National Science Foundation in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Nebraska, Spillane is working to understand the fundamentals of social capital development in schools. In an IPR working paper, Spillane and his colleagues use data from 30 elementary schools in a midsized, urban U.S. school district to investigate social tie formation for advice and seeking information in language arts and math classes. Their results suggest that while individuals’ personal characteristics, such as race and gender, are significantly associated with how social ties are formed, the formal organization in terms of grade-level assignment and formal position is also significant, having a larger effect than personal characteristics.
Assessing Spatial Learning
Workers in a high-tech, global economy need adequate scientific, technical, engineering, and mathematical skills. Northwestern’s Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center (SILC) aims to achieve a better understanding of spatial relationships, which serve as a basis for many of these skills. Hedges is part of the team leading the SILC project. Researchers within SILC recently reviewed more than 200 research studies on education interventions to improve spatial thinking. The meta-analysis is the first all-encompassing study of how and how much training influences spatial thinking. It considers gender and age differences in relation to spatial thinking. In males and females, adults and children alike, even a small amount of training can improve spatial reasoning and have long-lasting impact, showing that the skills are malleable and that spatial training transfers to other fields. The research team was led by Northwestern psychologist David Uttal and included former IPR graduate research assistant Elizabeth Tipton, now on the faculty at Columbia University. The article was published in Psychological Bulletin.
Linking Parental and Child Education
A large body of evidence suggests that children who do well in school earn more, enjoy better health, and have higher levels of life satisfaction. Prior research also shows that performance in school is strongly linked to family characteristics, including parental education. However, few studies have tried to identify the causal effects of parental education on children’s education, and the channels through which any causal effects operate have yet to be explored. IPR education economist David Figlio and his colleagues are working on a set of interrelated projects to study the correlations between parental education and children’s schooling, and they are analyzing the extent to which these correlations represent causal links. Using a new data set linking statewide and district-level individual administrative education records and birth records from Florida, they will also provide new evidence on the relationship between parental education, aspects of parental behavior, the neighborhood in which children live, the type of school children attend, and the type of teacher children are assigned to. Understanding this correlation could have strong public health implications given the known linkages between individual human capital and health outcomes. This project is supported by funding from the Gates Foundation, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and Institute of Education Sciences.
Housing Instability and Children’s Education Outcomes
With support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a team of researchers, including IPR education economist David Figlio, are investigating the effects of housing instability on children’s education outcomes. Using longitudinal data linking foreclosures and other kinds of housing upheavals to individual public school student records, the researchers examine four major markets suffering from unusual housing instability. Incorporating a variety of empirical strategies to separate the effects of housing instability from the effects of unobserved family characteristics, it will be possible to determine whether and how these changing schools and homes are impacting students’ educational outcomes. The results will better inform policymakers about whether, when, and how they should intervene in housing markets or tailor educational processes to reduce any negative effects that housing transitions might cause.