Head start

Kevin Lewis

March 15, 2019

Competition for University Places and Parental Time Investments: Evidence from the United Kingdom
Cristina Borra & Almudena Sevilla
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming


Across the industrialized world, college‐educated parents invest more time in their children relative to non-college‐educated parents. Yet, the reason for the education gradient in parental time investments is not well understood. Using 24‐hour diary surveys since the 1970s, we document an inverse U‐shape in the education gradient in the United Kingdom. Theories unfolding gradually and monotonically cannot easily explain this pattern. Using an exogenous increase in the number of students going on to university in the 1980s, we show that an alternative explanation based on competition for university places can explain the temporal and spatial variation in the education gradient.

On the academic disadvantage of low social class individuals: Pursuing performance goals fosters the emergence of the achievement gap
Marie Crouzevialle & Céline Darnon
Journal of Educational Psychology, forthcoming


Recent research has documented the academic disadvantage of low social class students, whose performance is impaired by competitive educational practices. Across 2 experiments, we examined whether the pursuit of performance-approach goals (aiming to outperform others) favors the emergence of this achievement gap. We first manipulated low versus high relative social class positions; participants then solved a reasoning test, for which they had been incited (or not) to outperform others. In Experiment 1, carried out among French students, participants primed with a low relative social class obtained a lower performance than those primed with a high relative social class — but only when performance-approach goals had been made salient. Results of Experiment 2 replicated this pattern among American participants. These findings reveal that the pursuit of performance-approach goals can fuel the social class achievement gap. We consider the advantages associated with the experimental manipulation of relative social class, and discuss how educational practices and policies may jeopardize — in an invisible way — the potential of lower social class students.

The Economic Value of Breaking Bad: Misbehavior, Schooling and the Labor Market
Nicholas Papageorge, Victor Ronda & Yu Zheng
NBER Working Paper, February 2019


Prevailing research argues that childhood misbehavior in the classroom is bad for schooling and, presumably, bad for labor market outcomes. In contrast, we argue that some childhood misbehavior represents underlying socio-emotional skills that are valuable in the labor market. We follow work from psychology and categorize observed classroom misbehavior into two underlying latent factors. We then estimate a model of educational attainment and earnings outcomes, allowing the impact of each of the two factors to vary by outcome. We find that one of the factors, labeled in the psychological literature as externalizing behavior (and linked, for example, to aggression), reduces educational attainment yet increases earnings. Unlike most models where socio-emotional skills that increase human capital through education also increase labor market skills, our findings illustrate how some socio-emotional skills can be productive in some economic contexts and counter-productive in others. Policies designed to promote human capital accumulation could therefore have mixed effects or even negative economic consequences, especially in the case of policies that target socio-emotional skill formation for children or adolescents which are aimed solely at improving educational outcomes.

Extra Time or Unused Time? What Data from a College Testing Center Tells Us About 50% Extra Time as an Accommodation for Students with Learning Disabilities
Alana Holmes & Robert Silvestri
Psychological Injury and Law, March 2019, Pages 7–16


Recent directives from legislative bodies in the USA and Canada assert that self-report and previous experience should constitute the basis from which accommodations are determined for students with disabilities (SWDs). Extended time for tests is a highly requested accommodation; postsecondary institutions have focused on 50% additional time as a universal starting point. However, the limited research on the issue of extended time has mostly drawn inferences to real-life test situations from studies employing simulated testing situations and participants with self-reported disability status. Archival data from 825 tests/exams held at one college during the 2012 and 2013 school years were analyzed to determine whether, and to what degree students with learning disabilities (SLDs) used the 50% extra time accorded them and what factors influenced the use of extra time. The majority of SLDs did not use extended time, and those who accessed it rarely used more than 25%. Findings have significant implications with respect to the procedures currently in use for the assignment of extra time to SLDs.

School Finance Equalization Increases Intergenerational Mobility: Evidence from a Simulated-Instruments Approach
Barbara Biasi
NBER Working Paper, February 2019


This paper estimates the causal effect of equalizing revenues across public school districts on students' intergenerational mobility, using variation from 13 school finance reforms passed in 20 US states between 1986 and 2004. Since households sort in response to each reform, post-reform revenues are endogenous to an extent that varies across states depending on the funding formula. I address this issue with a simulated-instruments approach, which uses newly collected data on states' funding formulas to simulate revenues in the absence of sorting. I find that equalization has a large effect on mobility, especially for low-income students. I provide suggestive evidence that this effect acts through a reduction in the gap in inputs (such as the number of teachers) and in college attendance between low-income and high-income districts.

The Consequences of Performance Standards in Need Based Aid: Evidence From Community Colleges
Judith Scott-Clayton & Lauren Schudde
Journal of Human Resources, forthcoming


Even need-based financial aid programs typically require recipients to meet Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements. We examine the consequences of failing SAP for community college entrants in one state, using regression discontinuity and difference-in-difference designs. We find heterogeneous academic effects in the short term, but, after six years, negative effects on academic and labor market outcomes dominate. Declines in credits attempted are 2–3 times as large as declines in credits earned, suggesting that SAP may increase aid efficiency. But students themselves are worse off, and the policy exacerbates inequality by pushing out low-income students faster than their higher-income peers.

The BUDL Effect: Examining Academic Achievement and Engagement Outcomes of Preadolescent Baltimore Urban Debate League Participants
Daniel Shackelford
Educational Researcher, forthcoming


This study adds to the limited literature base on extracurricular debate by using doubly robust inverse probability treatment weighting to estimate the average treatment effect for the treated of preadolescent debate participation on a variety of academic and engagement outcomes among a 10-year longitudinal sample of Baltimore City Public School System students. The effect of preadolescent Baltimore Urban Debate League participation for debaters was associated with increases in standardized test scores, a decreased likelihood of chronic absenteeism, and an increased likelihood of attending a selective entrance criteria high school. Although there is a mounting body of research that suggests participation in debate is associated with increases in positive outcomes for high school students, this research constitutes the first quantitative study to examine these relationships among elementary and middle school students. Policy implications for educational interventions that seek to attract low-income students of color in urban areas and influence their trajectories at earlier stages of student development are discussed.

Has the College Wage Premium Continued to Rise? Evidence from Multiple U.S. Surveys
Jared Ashworth & Tyler Ransom
Economics of Education Review, April 2019, Pages 149-154


This paper examines trends in the college wage premium (CWP) by birth cohort across the five major household surveys in the United States: the Census/ACS, CPS, NLSY, PSID, and SIPP. We document a general flattening in the CWP for birth cohorts 1970 and onward in each survey and even a decline for birth cohorts 1980–1984 in the NLSY. We discuss potential reasons for this finding and show that the empirical discrepancy is not a function of differences in composition across surveys. Our results provide crucial context for the vast economic literatures that use these surveys to answer important policy questions about intertemporal changes in the returns to skill.

Student Loans, Health, and Life Satisfaction of US Households: Evidence from a Panel Study
Jinhee Kim & Swarn Chatterjee
Journal of Family and Economic Issues, March 2019, Pages 36–50


As student loan debt among US households continues to rise, the resulting debt burden may have consequences for multiple aspects of life, including household health and well-being. Using panel data from 2011, 2013, and 2015 waves of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), this study investigated whether student loans are associated with self-reported health, psychological problems, and perceived life satisfaction. The results demonstrate that student loan debt was negatively associated with the life satisfaction and psychological well-being of respondents after controlling for other types of debt, such as medical and credit card debt, assets and income, and a number of other sociodemographic factors. Student loan debt from previous periods was also negatively associated with the health status of Hispanic respondents. The policy implications discussed in this study are relevant in the light of increasing higher education costs and debt burdens in America. The key findings from this study have policy implications for the long-term effects of student loans on life satisfaction, health, and well-being over time.

Life After Debt: Postgraduation Consequences of Federal Student Loans
Martin Gervais & Nicolas Ziebarth
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming


We estimate the causal effect of student loans on postgraduation labor market outcomes exploiting a kink in the formula determining eligibility for need‐based student loans. Using a representative sample of students graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1993, we find that student debt has nonnegative effects on earnings. This result holds with differing levels of statistical significance across a battery of different empirical designs: (1) ordinary least squares, (2) partially linear, and (3) regression kink. We find similar results for the 2008 graduating cohort.

Judging Credibility: Can Spaced Lessons Help Students Think More Critically Online?
Vanessa Foot‐Seymour, June Foot & Melody Wiseheart
Applied Cognitive Psychology, forthcoming


Despite the prevalence of the spacing effect in the psychological literature, the impact of lesson timing has not yet been fully explored in real classrooms. The current study examined whether spacing could improve long‐term retention of both factual and critical thinking curriculum‐based teaching materials for children. Students 9‐ to 12‐years‐old were taught to judge the credibility of websites in either three consecutive days of lessons or one lesson per week. Thirty‐five days after the final lesson, students were tested on factual knowledge and applied their knowledge to evaluating a new website. Students in the spaced condition remembered more facts from the lessons and were better able to explain their website ratings than students in the massed group.

Strategic Default Among Private Student Loan Debtors: Evidence from Bankruptcy Reform
Rajeev Darolia & Dubravka Ritter
Education Finance and Policy, forthcoming


Bankruptcy reform in 2005 restricted debtors' ability to discharge private student loan debt. The reform was motivated by the perceived incentive of some borrowers to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 even if they had, or expected to have, sufficient income to service their debt. Using a nationally representative sample of millions of anonymized credit bureau files, we examine whether private student loan borrowers distinctly adjusted their Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing behavior after the reform. We do not find evidence to indicate that the moral hazard associated with dischargeability appreciably affected the behavior of private student loan debtors prior to the policy. Thus, our findings do not provide empirical support to the theoretical concerns about pervasive strategic default that inspired lawmakers to make private student loan debt largely nondischargeable.

Monetary Substitution of Loans, Earnings, and Need-based Aid in Postsecondary Education: The Impact of Pell Grant Eligibility
Brent Evans & Tuan Nguyen
Economics of Education Review, June 2019, Pages 1-19


By applying a regression discontinuity design to national data of students at four-year colleges, this study identifies the average substitution effects of exogenously received increases of grant aid on hours of paid labor, earnings, and borrowing while in college. Results confirm students substitute grant aid for both paid labor and borrowing. An average increase of $1,100 in grant aid reduces weekly job hours by 1.5-2 hours per week for women, corresponding to a decline in annual earnings of $850, and reduces borrowing by an average of $300-$400 dollars among all students. We find limited evidence of grant aid's impact on academic outcomes.


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