Findings

In-Class Exercise

Kevin Lewis

January 10, 2010

Assessing the Impact of Eliminating Affirmative Action in Higher Education

Jessica Howell
Journal of Labor Economics, January 2010, Pages 113-166

Abstract:
This research examines the determinants of the match between high school seniors and postsecondary institutions in the United States. I model college application decisions as a nonsequential search problem and specify a unified structural model of college application, admission, and matriculation decisions that are all functions of unobservable individual heterogeneity. The results indicate that black and Hispanic representation at all 4‐year colleges is predicted to decline modestly-by 2%-if race‐ neutral college admissions policies are mandated nationwide. However, race‐ neutral admissions are predicted to decrease minority representation at the most selective 4‐year institutions by 10%.

----------------------

Early Gender Test Score Gaps Across OECD Countries

Kelly Bedard & Insook Cho
Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
The results reported in this paper contribute to the debate about gender skill gaps in at least three ways. First, we document the large differences in early gender gaps across developed countries using a large scale, modern, representative data source. Second, we show that countries with pro-female sorting, countries that place girls in classes with higher than average scores have smaller gender test score gaps, at least in math. Third, we show that the degree of academic tracking is correlated with observed gender gaps across developed countries.

----------------------

No Map to Manhood: Male and Female Mindsets Behind the College Gender Gap

Judith Kleinfeld
Gender Issues, December 2009, Pages 171-182

Abstract:
This study explores the basis of the gender gap in postsecondary enrollment through qualitative interviews with 99 high school seniors who are making decisions about college. While individual differences occurred, female high school seniors were far more apt to have well-developed plans to attend college based on their views that education is a vital educational investment, that the occupations they seek require a college education, and that they want to make a difference to society. Male high school students evidenced two different mindsets. Those from families whose parents had graduated from college saw higher education just as the expected path. Those from working class families had little knowledge of the labor market, the likelihood of obtaining "dream jobs," and the income they would need to live comfortable adult lives. Far more young men disliked schooling. Both sexes have developed a stereotype of males as "lazy," a label which covers a host of problems reducing college enrollment.

----------------------

Real Costs of Nominal Grade Inflation? New Evidence from Student Course Evaluations

Philip Babcock
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming

Abstract:
College grade point averages in the United States rose substantially between the 1960s and the 2000s. Over the same period, study time declined by almost a half. This paper uses a 12-quarter panel of course evaluations from the University of California, San Diego to discern whether a link between grades and effort investment holds up in a micro setting. Results indicate that average study time would be about 50% lower in a class in which the average expected grade was an "A" than in the same course taught by the same instructor in which students expected a "C." Simultaneity suggests estimates are biased toward 0. Findings do not appear to be driven primarily by the individual student's expected grade, but by the average expected grade of others in the class. Class-specific characteristics that generate low expected grades appear to produce higher effort choices - evidence that nominal changes in grades may lead to real changes in effort investment.

----------------------

The Good, the Bad and the Average: Evidence on the Scale and Nature of Ability Peer Effects in Schools

Victor Lavy, Olmo Silva & Felix Weinhardt
NBER Working Paper, December 2009

Abstract:
We study the scale and nature of ability peer effects in secondary schools in England. In order to shed light on the nature of these effects, we investigate which segments of the peer ability distribution drive the impact of peer quality on students' achievements. Additionally, we study which quantiles of the pupil ability distribution are affected by different measures of peer quality. To do so, we use census data for four cohorts of pupils taking their age-14 national tests in 2003/2004-2006/2007, and measure students' ability by their prior achievements at age-11. We base our identification strategy on within-pupil regressions that exploit variation in achievements across the three compulsory subjects (English, Mathematics and Science) tested both at age-14 and age-11. We find significant and sizeable negative peer effects arising from students at the very bottom of the ability distribution, but little evidence that the average peer quality and the very top peers significantly affect pupils' academic achievements. However, these results mask some significant heterogeneity along the gender dimension, with girls significantly benefiting from the presence of very academically bright peers, and boys significantly losing out. We further provide evidence that the effect of the very best peers substantially varies by the ability of other pupils. On the other hand, the effect of the very worst peers is similarly negative and significant for boys and girls of all abilities.

----------------------

Explaining Low Rates of Autism Among Hispanic Schoolchildren in Texas

Raymond Palmer, Tatjana Walker, David Mandell, Bryan Bayles & Claudia Miller
American Journal of Public Health, forthcoming

Abstract:
In data from the Texas Educational Agency and the Health Resources and Services Administration, we found fewer autism diagnoses in school districts with higher percentages of Hispanic children. Our results are consistent with previous reports of autism rates 2 to 3 times as high among non-Hispanic Whites as among Hispanics. Socioeconomic factors failed to explain lower autism prevalence among Hispanic schoolchildren in Texas. These findings raise questions: Is autism underdiagnosed among Hispanics? Are there protective factors associated with Hispanic ethnicity?

----------------------

College Preparatory Curriculum for All: Academic Consequences of Requiring Algebra and English I for Ninth Graders in Chicago

Elaine Allensworth, Takako Nomi, Nicholas Montgomery & Valerie Lee
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, December 2009, Pages 367-391

Abstract:
There is a national movement to universalize the high school curriculum so that all students graduate prepared for college. The present work evaluates a policy in Chicago that ended remedial classes and mandated college preparatory course work for all students. Based on an interrupted time-series cohort design with multiple comparisons, this study found that the policy reduced inequities in ninth grade course work by entering ability, race/ethnicity, and special education status. Although more students completed ninth grade with credits in algebra and English I, failure rates increased, grades slightly declined, test scores did not improve, and students were no more likely to enter college. In sum, few benefits resulted from universalizing college preparatory course work among freshmen, but dropout rates did not increase. Possible explanations are discussed.

----------------------

Low-Income Students and Highly Selective Private Colleges: Geography, Searching, and Recruiting

Catharine Hill & Gordon Winston
Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
In earlier work, the authors found that only 10% of the students at 28 of the nation's most selective private colleges and universities came from families in the bottom 40% of the U.S. family income distribution and that there is a larger share of low income high ability students in the national population than in the student bodies of these selective private schools. Using SAT and ACT data, this paper finds that inadequate attention to geography and the incidence of ACT tests in their search and recruiting activities has contributed to a bias against low-income students at these schools.

----------------------

Insuring College Failure Risk

Satyajit Chatterjee & Felicia Anamaria Ionescu
Federal Reserve Bank Working Paper, November 2009

Abstract:
Participants in student loan programs must repay loans in full regardless of whether they complete college. But many students who take out a loan do not earn a degree (the dropout rate among college students is between 33 to 50 percent). The authors examine whether insurance against college-failure risk can be offered, taking into account moral hazard and adverse selection. To do so, they developed a model that accounts for college enrollment, dropout, and completion rates among new high school graduates in the US and use that model to study the feasibility and optimality of offering insurance against college-failure risk. The authors find that optimal insurance raises the enrollment rate by 3.5 percent, the fraction acquiring a degree by 3.8 percent and welfare by 2.7 percent. These effects are more pronounced for students with low scholastic ability (the ones with high failure probability).

----------------------

Do Better Schools Lead to More Growth? Cognitive Skills, Economic Outcomes, and Causation

Eric Hanushek & Ludger Woessmann
Stanford Working Paper, December 2009

Abstract:
We investigate whether a causal interpretation of the robust association between cognitive skills and economic growth is appropriate and whether cross-country evidence supports a case for the economic benefits of effective school policy. We develop a new common metric that allows tracking student achievement across countries, over time, and along the within-country distribution. Extensive sensitivity analyses of cross-country growth regressions generate remarkably stable results across specifications, time periods, and country samples. In addressing causality, we find, first, significant growth effects of cognitive skills when instrumented by institutional features of school systems. Second, home-country cognitive-skill levels strongly affect the earnings of immigrants on the U.S. labor market in a difference-in-differences model that compares home-educated to U.S.-educated immigrants from the same country of origin. Third, countries that improved their cognitive skills over time experienced relative increases in their growth paths. From a policy perspective, the shares of basic literates and high performers have independent significant effects on growth, and the estimates suggest that the high-performer effect is larger in poorer countries.

----------------------

Grade inflation under the threat of students' nuisance: Theory and evidence

Wan-ju Iris Franz
Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study examines a channel, students' nuisance, to explain grade inflation. "Students' nuisance" is defined by "students' pestering the professors for better grades." This paper contains two parts: the game theoretic model and the empirical tests. The model shows that the potential threat of students' nuisance can induce the professors to inflate grades. Ceteris paribus, a student is more likely to study little and to pester the professor for a better grade if: 1. the professor is lenient; 2. the studying cost is high; 3. the reward from pestering is high; 4. the cost of pestering is low. My original survey data show that 70%+ of professors think that students' nuisance is "annoying" and "costly in terms of time, effort, and energy." Regression results indicate that the more the student values the grade, and the higher the studying cost, the more likely the student is to pester the professor.

----------------------

Maternal Education, Early Child Care and the Reproduction of Advantage

Jennifer March Augustine, Shannon Cavanagh & Robert Crosnoe
Social Forces, September 2009, Pages 1-29

Abstract:
The social and human capital that educational attainment provides women enables them to better navigate their children's passages through school. In this study, we examine a key mechanism in this intergenerational process: mothers' selection of early child care. Analyses of the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development revealed that maternal education was positively associated with configurations of child-care characteristics (i.e., type, quality, quantity) most closely linked to children's school readiness. This association was not solely a function of mother's income or employment status, persisted despite controls for many observable confounds (e.g., maternal cognitive and psychological skills, paternal characteristics), and, according to post-hoc indices, was fairly robust in terms of unobservable confounds.

----------------------

The governance and performance of universities: Evidence from Europe and the US

Philippe Aghion, Mathias Dewatripont, Caroline Hoxby, Andreu Mas-Colell & André Sapir
Economic Policy, January 2010, Pages 7-59

Abstract:
We test the hypothesis that universities are more productive when they are both more autonomous and face more competition. Using survey data, we construct indices of university autonomy and competition for both Europe and the United States. We show that there are strong positive correlations between these indices and multiple measures of university output. To obtain causal evidence, we investigate exogenous shocks to US universities' expenditures over three decades. These shocks arise through the political appointment process, which we use to generate instrumental variables. We find that an exogenous increase in a university's expenditure generates more output, measured by either patents or publications, if the university is more autonomous and faces more competition. Exploiting variation over time in the 'stakes' of competitions for US federal research grants, we also find that universities generate more output for a given expenditure when research competitions are high stakes. We draw lessons, arguing that European universities could benefit from a combination of greater autonomy and greater accountability. Greater accountability might come through increased reliance on competitive grants, enhanced competition for students and faculty (promoted by reforms that increase mobility), and yardstick competitions (which often take the form of assessment exercises).


Sign-in to your National Affairs subscriber account.


Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


subscribe

Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

SUBSCRIBE
Subscribe to National Affairs.