nep-edu New Economics Papers
on Education
Issue of 2023‒11‒20
five papers chosen by
Nádia Simões, Instituto Universitário de Lisboa 

  1. Long-Term Effects of Environmental Policies on Educational Performance: Evidence from China By Siwar Khelifa; Jie He
  2. Free to improve? The impact of free school attendance in England By Marco Bertoni; Gabriel Heller-Sahlgren; Olmo Silva
  3. Intergenerational Transmission of Inequality: Maternal Endowments, Investments, and Birth Outcomes By Eshaghnia, Sadegh S. M.; Heckman, James J.
  4. School and Crime By Todd R. Jones; Ezra Karger
  5. Double and Single Descent in Causal Inference with an Application to High-Dimensional Synthetic Control By Jann Spiess; Guido Imbens; Amar Venugopal

  1. By: Siwar Khelifa; Jie He
    Abstract: This paper examines the overall long-term effects of the Two Control Zones policy, implemented by the Chinese government to reduce air pollution, on children’s human capital development. Estimates show that exposure to this policy, during the year of birth, is associated, 15 years later, with an increased probability to obtain better standardized test scores and thus to join a higher quality high school and an increased probability to join an academic high school. These results provide an additional evidence in favor of environmental policies as promising inputs for human capital formation. The beneficial effects are found to be accentuated among girls and children born to fathers with low education levels, suggesting that environmental regulations may help reducing some of the educational disparities, in a developing country context. Projecting forward, results also suggest better future higher education and labor market outcomes. The findings are robust to various alternative hypotheses and specifications.
    Date: 2023–10
  2. By: Marco Bertoni; Gabriel Heller-Sahlgren; Olmo Silva
    Abstract: We investigate the impact of attending a free school in England - that is, a new start-up school that enjoys considerable autonomy while remaining in the state sector. We analyse the effects of two secondary free schools with different teaching philosophies: one follows a 'no excuse' paradigm, while the other one adopts a 'classical liberal', knowledge-rich approach. We establish causal effects exploiting admission lotteries and a distance-based regression discontinuity design. Both schools have a strong positive impact on student test scores on average. However, we also find heterogeneous effects: the 'no excuse' school mostly benefits boys, while the 'classical liberal' school mainly benefits White British and non-poor students. Both schools similarly reduce student absences and school mobility. Peer quality, teacher characteristics, and inspectorate ratings cannot fully explain the schools' effectiveness. Instead, a quantitative text analysis of the schools' 'vision and ethos' statements shows that the 'no excuse' and 'classical liberal' philosophies adopted by the two free schools clearly set them apart from the counterfactual schools where rejected applicants enrol, and likely explain their heterogeneous effects.
    Keywords: school autonomy, quasi-markets, free schools, achievement, schools
    Date: 2023–09–21
  3. By: Eshaghnia, Sadegh S. M. (Center for the Economics of Human Development (CEHD)); Heckman, James J. (University of Chicago)
    Abstract: Newborn health is an important component in the chain of intergenerational transmission of disadvantage. This paper contributes to the literature on the determinants of health at birth in two ways. First, we analyze the role of maternal endowments and investments (education and smoking in pregnancy) on the probability of having a baby who is small for gestational age (SGA). We estimate both the total impact of maternal endowments on birth outcomes, and we also decompose it into a direct, "biological" effect and a "choice" effect, mediated by maternal behaviors. Second, we estimate the causal effects of maternal education and smoking in pregnancy, and investigate whether women endowed with different traits have different returns. We find that maternal cognition affects birth outcomes primarily through maternal education, that personality traits mainly operate by changing maternal smoking, and that the physical fitness of the mother has a direct, "biological" effect on SGA. We find significant heterogeneity in the effects of education and smoking along the distribution of maternal physical traits, suggesting that women with less healthy physical constitutions should be the primary target of prenatal interventions.
    Keywords: health production, intergenerational transmission, human capital
    JEL: I12 I14 J24
    Date: 2023–09
  4. By: Todd R. Jones; Ezra Karger
    Abstract: Criminal activity is seasonal, peaking in the summer and declining through the winter. We provide the first evidence that arrests of children and reported crimes involving children follow a different pattern: peaking during the school year and declining in the summer. We use a regression discontinuity design surrounding the exact start and end dates of the school year to show that this pattern is caused by school: children aged 10–17 are roughly 50% more likely to be involved in a reported crime during the beginning of the school year relative to the weeks before school begins. This sharp increase is driven by student-on-student crimes occurring in school and during school hours. We use the timing of these patterns and a seasonal adjustment to argue that school increases reported crime rates (and arrests) involving 10–17-year-old offenders by 47% (41%) annually relative to a counterfactual where crime rates follow typical seasonal patterns. School exacerbates preexisting sex-based and race-based inequality in reported crime and arrest rates, increasing both the Black-white and male-female gap in reported juvenile crime and arrest rates by more than 40%.
    Keywords: school, crime, academic calendar, regression discontinuity design
    JEL: I20 K40
    Date: 2023
  5. By: Jann Spiess; Guido Imbens; Amar Venugopal
    Abstract: Motivated by a recent literature on the double-descent phenomenon in machine learning, we consider highly over-parameterized models in causal inference, including synthetic control with many control units. In such models, there may be so many free parameters that the model fits the training data perfectly. We first investigate high-dimensional linear regression for imputing wage data and estimating average treatment effects, where we find that models with many more covariates than sample size can outperform simple ones. We then document the performance of high-dimensional synthetic control estimators with many control units. We find that adding control units can help improve imputation performance even beyond the point where the pre-treatment fit is perfect. We provide a unified theoretical perspective on the performance of these high-dimensional models. Specifically, we show that more complex models can be interpreted as model-averaging estimators over simpler ones, which we link to an improvement in average performance. This perspective yields concrete insights into the use of synthetic control when control units are many relative to the number of pre-treatment periods.
    JEL: C01
    Date: 2023–10

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