nep-edu New Economics Papers
on Education
Issue of 2023‒01‒09
eleven papers chosen by
Nádia Simões
Instituto Universitário de Lisboa

  1. Do College Admissions Criteria Matter? Evidence from Discretionary vs. Grade-Based Admission Policies By Kamis, Rais; Pan, Jessica; Seah, Kelvin
  2. Does It Pay to Attend More Selective High Schools? Regression Discontinuity Evidence from China By Huang, Bin; Li, Bo; Walker, Ian; Zhu, Yu
  3. Positive Disruption? Meritocratic Principal Selection and Student Achievement By Oana Borcan; James Merewood
  4. Female Neighbors, Test Scores, and Careers By Sofoklis Goulas; Rigissa Megalokonomou; Yi Zhang
  5. What Do Changes in State Test Scores Imply for Later Life Outcomes? By Elena Doty; Thomas J. Kane; Tyler Patterson; Douglas O. Staiger
  6. The Effect of Brazil's Family Health Program on Cognitive Skills By Gunes, Pinar Mine; Tsaneva, Magda
  7. Fade-Out of Educational Interventions: Statistical and Substantive Sources By Simon Calmar Andersen; Simon Tranberg Bodilsen; Mikkel Aagaard Houmark; Helena Skyt Nielsen
  8. Interactions between Conditional Cash Transfers and Preferred Secondary Schools in Jamaica By Beuermann, Diether; Ramos Bonilla, Andrea; Stampini, Marco
  9. Does Ethnic Diversity in Schools Affect Occupational Choices? By Pregaldini, Damiano; Balestra, Simone; Backes-Gellner, Uschi
  10. Reference Dependent Aspirations and Peer Effects in Education By Fongoni, Marco; Norris, Jonathan; Romiti, Agnese; Shi, Zhan
  11. Do Slum Upgrading Programs Impact School Attendance? By Zanoni, Wladimir; Acevedo, Paloma; Guerrero, Diego

  1. By: Kamis, Rais (National University of Singapore); Pan, Jessica (National University of Singapore); Seah, Kelvin (National University of Singapore)
    Abstract: This paper examines the implications of college admissions criteria on students' academic and non-academic performance in university and their labor market outcomes. We exploit a unique feature of the admissions system at a large university that has two admission tracks – a regular admission track where admission is based exclusively on academic performance and a discretionary admission (DA) track where applicants can instead gain admission on the basis of demonstrated non-academic qualities. Comparing students admitted through each track, we find that DA students fare similarly in terms of academic performance in university as marginal students admitted through the regular route. However, they are significantly more likely to be involved in optional academic and non-academic college activities and earn substantially higher labor market earnings up to three years after graduation. These results are not driven by the DA process differentially selecting students on the basis of family background or unobserved academic ability.
    Keywords: college selection, higher education, non-academic skills
    JEL: I21 I23 J31
    Date: 2022–11
  2. By: Huang, Bin (Nanjing University of Finance and Economics); Li, Bo (Nanjing University); Walker, Ian (Lancaster University); Zhu, Yu (University of Dundee)
    Abstract: We examine the effect of attending academically selective high schools on test scores, by leveraging administrative data that matches high school preferences of the population of urban middle school graduates in one Chinese prefecture in 2010 with high school student records. The standard admission channel is generally driven by merit subject to only nominal tuition fees, with contextual admission for disadvantaged students. An alternative admission channel admits lower-ability students subject to substantial selection-fees, retained by the under-funded schools. We combine a cumulative multiple-cutoff regression discontinuity design (RDD) with a within-cutoff normalizing-and-pooling fuzzy RDD strategy, based on publicly announced school-specific admission thresholds in the city-wide High School Entrance Exam (HSEE) scores. Multiple-cutoff RDD estimates show heterogeneous effects of attending schools with different degrees of selectivity, in a unified setting. Within-cutoff normalizing-and-pooling RDD allows admission thresholds to differ by willingness to pay the extra selection-fees and by eligibility for contextual admission. The estimated effects on high school leaving exam scores of attending elite schools vs normal public high schools, and of attending normal public high schools vs low-quality private high schools are insignificantly different from zero, for students who barely made it into the more selective school. However, the effect of attending the most selective flagship school vs elite schools, has a large negative and statistically significant effect, which is more pronounced for girls, for students from the semi-urban area according to hukou (household) registration, and for students who performed relatively badly in the science track subjects in the HSEE.
    Keywords: elite schools, school choice, fuzzy regression discontinuity design, China
    JEL: I20 I24
    Date: 2022–11
  3. By: Oana Borcan (School of Economics, University of East Anglia); James Merewood (RAND Europe)
    Abstract: Principals are the gatekeepers of education and can influence student achievement through management practises. However in many countries discretionary staff appointments, corruption and inefficiency undermine the quality of management and education. Meritocratic selection in public service has been advocated as a tool to elevate management quality. We analyse the short-term impact of the 2016 introduction of merit-based selection for Romanian state school principals on students school-leaving test scores. Employing a staggered difference-in-difference strategy, we study the impact of competitively selected principals (compared to those appointed), and the impact of new principals (compared to principals who retain their position). The average treatment effect is small and insignificant immediately after the policy, with some evidence that new principals begin to improve outcomes two years on, particularly in schools with average historical performance. Since principals have limited management autonomy, this improvement is likely due to strategic selection of students into sitting the exam, but additional survey data also suggests the policy selects principals that are more motivated for the job. The evidence points to benefits and limitations of merit based recruitment policies in education.
    Keywords: Merit-based selection, public sector recruitment, school principals, test scores
    JEL: I21 I28 O15 M54
    Date: 2022–12
  4. By: Sofoklis Goulas; Rigissa Megalokonomou; Yi Zhang
    Abstract: How much does your neighbor impact your test scores and career? In this paper, we examine how an observable characteristic of same-age neighbors—their gender—affects a variety of high school and university outcomes. We exploit randomness in the gender composition of local cohorts at birth from one year to the next. In a setting in which school assignment is based on proximity to residential address, we define as neighbors all same-cohort peers who attend neighboring schools. Using new administrative data for the universe of students in consecutive cohorts in Greece, we find that a higher share of female neighbors improves both male and female students’ high school and university outcomes. We also find that female students are more likely to enroll in STEM degrees and target more lucrative occupations when they are exposed to a higher share of female neighbors. We collect rich qualitative geographic data on communal spaces (e.g., churches, libraries, parks, Scouts and sports fields) to understand whether access to spaces of social interaction drives neighbor effects. We find that communal facilities amplify neighbor effects among females.
    Keywords: neighbour gender peer effects, cohort-to-cohort random variation, birth gender composition, geodata, STEM university degrees
    JEL: J16 J24 I24 I26
    Date: 2022
  5. By: Elena Doty; Thomas J. Kane; Tyler Patterson; Douglas O. Staiger
    Abstract: In the three decades before the pandemic, mean achievement of U.S. 8th graders in math rose by more than half a standard deviation on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Between 2019 and 2022, U.S. students had forfeited 40 percent of that rise. To anticipate the consequences of the recent decline, we investigate the past relationship between NAEP scores and students’ later life outcomes by year and state of birth. We find that a standard deviation improvement in a birth cohort’s 8th grade math achievement was associated with an 8 percent rise in income, as well as improved educational attainment and declines in teen motherhood, incarceration and arrest rates. If allowed to become permanent, our findings imply that the recent losses would represent a 1.6 percent decline in present value of lifetime earnings for the average K-12 student (or $19,400), totaling $900 billion for the 48 million students enrolled in public schools during the 2020-21 school year.
    JEL: I24 I26 J24
    Date: 2022–12
  6. By: Gunes, Pinar Mine (University of Alberta); Tsaneva, Magda (Clark University)
    Abstract: This paper examines the effect of Brazil's Family Health Program (Programa Saude da Familia, FHP) on cognitive skills of fifth-grade students. We use biennial data from national exams between 2007 and 2015, and variation in the FHP implementation date across municipalities, birth cohort, and test year to identify the effect of the program on language and mathematics test scores. We find that, in northern municipalities, students exposed to FHP at or prior to birth have 0.88 points higher language and 1.30 points higher mathematics test scores compared to those exposed to FHP in childhood. The estimated effects are intent-to-treat effects and correspond to increases of 0.021sd and 0.030sd in language and mathematics test scores. We use an event-study analysis demonstrating that the largest effects of FHP on cognitive skills are for those students exposed at or prior to birth, with trivial effects if exposed after birth. We do not find evidence for changes in parental investment behavior or child school attendance, which suggests that the effects are likely due to the direct impact of the program on child cognitive development.
    Keywords: early life interventions, cognitive skills, community healthcare, Brazil
    JEL: I15 I18 I21
    Date: 2022–12
  7. By: Simon Calmar Andersen; Simon Tranberg Bodilsen; Mikkel Aagaard Houmark; Helena Skyt Nielsen
    Abstract: What appears to be ineffectiveness of educational interventions in the long run may actually be caused by statistical artefacts in the equating of tests taken at different time points or by the nature of the skill development in the absence of targeted interventions. We use longitudinal data on the full population of public school students in Denmark to estimate central parameters in the equating of reading test scores and in a skill formation model. We compare the model’s predictions to observed fade-out in a randomized controlled trial two and four years after the end of the intervention. Predicted and observed estimates consistently show that about half of the initial effect has faded out after four years. However, because of the concave nature of skill development, the treated students maintain more than 80 % of their time lead
    Keywords: persistence, growth curve, time lead, statistical artefact, test equating, RCT
    JEL: I21 J24
    Date: 2022
  8. By: Beuermann, Diether; Ramos Bonilla, Andrea; Stampini, Marco
    Abstract: We explore whether the academic benefit from attending a preferred secondary school differs between beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries of the Jamaican Conditional Cash Transfer Program, Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH). The academic outcomes assessed include end of secondary and post-secondary high-stakes examinations independently administered by the Caribbean Examinations Council. Among girls, receiving PATH benefits before secondary school enrollment does not influence the academic gains from attending a more selective school. However, boys who received PATH benefits prior to secondary school enrollment benefit significantly less from subsequently attending a more selective school with respect to comparable peers who did not receive PATH benefits. These results suggest negative dynamic interactions between PATH and selective secondary schools among boys.
    Keywords: Academic Performance;School Selectivity;PATH;Dynamic Interactions
    JEL: H52 H75 I21 I26 I28 I38
    Date: 2021–12
  9. By: Pregaldini, Damiano (University of Zurich); Balestra, Simone (University of St. Gallen); Backes-Gellner, Uschi (University of Zurich)
    Abstract: We study how two distinct dimensions of peer ethnic diversity (ethnic fractionalization and ethnic polarization) affect occupational choice. Using longitudinal administrative data and leveraging variation in ethnic composition across cohorts within schools, we find evidence for two opposing effects. Ethnic fractionalization increases the likelihood of students sorting into people-oriented occupations while ethnic polarization reduces this likelihood. Using data on social and cognitive skills, we provide evidence that exposure to higher levels of ethnic fractionalization enhances the students' formation of social skills and increases the likelihood of students sorting into people-oriented occupations where the returns to these skills are higher.
    Keywords: ethnic diversity, fractionalization, polarization, school, occupational choice
    JEL: H75 I21 J18 J24
    Date: 2022–12
  10. By: Fongoni, Marco (Aix Marseille University); Norris, Jonathan (University of Strathclyde); Romiti, Agnese (University of Strathclyde); Shi, Zhan (University of Strathclyde)
    Abstract: We study the long-run effects of income inequality within adolescent peer compositions in schools. We propose a theoretical framework based on reference dependence where inequality in peer groups can generate aspiration gaps. Guided by predictions from this framework we find that an increase in the share of low-income peers within school-cohorts improves the educational outcomes of low-income students and has negative effects on high-income students. We further document a range of evidence that corroborates these results, including that they are distinct from peer non-linear ability effects. We then find that social cohesion, through better connections in the school network, has an important role in mitigating the effects of peer inequality. Our results provide evidence on the role of inequality in peer groups for long-run educational outcomes, while also demonstrating that there is potential to avoid these consequences.
    Keywords: inequality, peer effects, education
    JEL: I21 I24 I29 J24
    Date: 2022–12
  11. By: Zanoni, Wladimir; Acevedo, Paloma; Guerrero, Diego
    Abstract: This paper analyzes how slum upgrading programs impact elementary school childrens attendance in Uruguay. We take advantage of the eligibility rule that deems slums eligible for a SUP program if they have 40 or more dwelling units. Using a fuzzy regression discontinuity estimator, we find that students exposed to SUPs are 17 percent less likely to be at the 90th percentile of the yearly count of school absences. That effect appears to be driven by how SUPs impact girls. These interventions have effects that last for more than five years after their implementation. We discuss some critical urban and education policy implications of our findings.
    Keywords: Slum Upgrading;school absences;regression discontinuity
    JEL: B20 C54 D04 O18
    Date: 2021–10

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