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Does School Spending Matter? The New Literature on an Old Question (WP-19-02)

Kirabo Jackson

Social scientists have long sought to examine the causal impact of school spending on child
outcomes. For a long time, the literature on this topic was largely descriptive so that it had been
difficult to draw strong causal claims. However, there have been several recent studies in this space
that employ larger data-sets and use quasi-experimental methods that allow for much more credible
causal claims. Focusing on studies of students in the United States, this paper briefly discusses the
older literature and highlights some of its limitations. It then describes a recent quasi-experimental
literature on the impact of school spending on child outcomes, highlights some key papers, and
presents a summary of the recent findings. Policy implications and areas for future research are
Kirabo Jackson, Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

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