New Information

Kevin Lewis

May 25, 2020

Choosing immediate over delayed gratification correlates with better school-related outcomes in a sample of children of color from low-income families
Chelsea Duran & David Grissmer
Developmental Psychology, June 2020, Pages 1107-1120


Delayed, as opposed to immediate, gratification is generally understood to indicate adaptive development. The present study investigates performance on a choice-based delay of gratification measure and its relations with other outcomes in a sample of children of color from low-income families, who are underrepresented in delayed gratification research. The 6-item choice delay of gratification task, administered at the start of kindergarten (Mage = 5.5 years), exhibited good reliability. Items were largely equal in difficulty, but not equally discriminant. Children who chose immediate gratification had better executive function and were rated higher than their peers by their kindergarten teachers on behavioral measures; patterns in relations with first grade classroom behavior were similar, but weaker and not robust to controls. Choosing immediate gratification was also positively related to concurrent and later achievement, but not after controlling for executive function. These observations reinforce a need to clarify constructs underlying delay of gratification choices within groups of children underrepresented in this line of research.

The Myth of Unions’ Overprotection of Bad Teachers: Evidence from the District-Teacher Matched Data on Teacher Turnover
Eunice Han
Industrial Relations, April 2020, Pages 316-352


This article examines the relationship between teachers’ unions and teacher turnover in U.S. public schools. The trade‐off between teacher pay and employment predicts that unions raise the dismissal rate of underperforming teachers but reduce the attrition of high‐quality teachers, as the higher wages unions negotiate provide districts strong incentives to scrutinize teacher performance during a probationary period while encouraging high‐quality teachers to remain in teaching. Using the district-teacher matched data and a natural experiment, I find that, compared to less‐unionized districts, highly unionized districts dismiss more low‐quality teachers and retain more high‐quality teachers, raising average teacher quality and educational outcomes.

The Economic Impact of Access to Public Four-Year Colleges
Jonathan Smith, Joshua Goodman & Michael Hurwitz
NBER Working Paper, May 2020


We provide the first estimated economic impacts of students’ access to an entire sector of public higher education in the U.S. Approximately half of Georgia high school graduates who enroll in college do so in the state’s public four-year sector, which requires minimum SAT scores for admission. Regression discontinuity estimates show enrollment in public four-year institutions boosts students’ household income around age 30 by 20 percent, and has even larger impacts for those from low income high schools. Access to this sector has little clear impact on student loan balances or other measures of financial health. For the marginal student, enrollment in such institutions has large private returns even in the short run and positive returns to state budgets in the long run.

Parents, Partners, Plans, and Promises: The Relational Work of Student Loan Borrowing
Abby Stivers & Elizabeth Popp Berman
Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, April 2020


When does student loan borrowing prompt relational work between borrowers and family members? Research on student loans has focused on quantitative estimation of the effects of borrowing on educational attainment, economic well-being, health, and life-course milestones. Drawing on 60 interviews with lawyers in the northeastern United States, the authors argue that student loans also have underappreciated relational effects, even for relatively privileged borrowers. Relational work around student loans is particularly visible during the decision to borrow, when establishing partnerships, and in transitioning to parenthood. It becomes prominent when there is a mismatch between family members’ economic expectations of one another and when shared expectations are difficult to fulfill. Scholars have implicitly assumed that difficulty repaying explains the impact of borrowing on family formation. Attention to relational work, however, shows how debt can create stressors even for borrowers capable of repayment and may help explain cross-group variation in how debt affects family decisions.

Does my professor think my ability can change? Students’ perceptions of their STEM professors’ mindset beliefs predict their psychological vulnerability, engagement, and performance in class
Katherine Muenks et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming


Two experiments and 2 field studies examine how college students’ perceptions of their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professors’ mindset beliefs about the fixedness or malleability of intelligence predict students’ anticipated and actual psychological experiences and performance in their STEM classes, as well as their engagement and interest in STEM more broadly. In Studies 1 (N = 252) and 2 (N = 224), faculty mindset beliefs were experimentally manipulated and students were exposed to STEM professors who endorsed either fixed or growth mindset beliefs. In Studies 3 (N = 291) and 4 (N = 902), we examined students’ perceptions of their actual STEM professors’ mindset beliefs and used experience sampling methodology (ESM) to capture their in-the-moment psychological experiences in those professors’ classes. Across all studies, we find that students who perceive that their professor endorses more fixed mindset beliefs anticipate (Studies 1 and 2) and actually experience (Studies 3 and 4) more psychological vulnerability in those professors’ classes - specifically, they report less belonging in class, greater evaluative concerns, greater imposter feelings, and greater negative affect. We also find that in-the-moment experiences of psychological vulnerability have downstream consequences. Students who perceive that their STEM professors endorse more fixed mindset beliefs experience greater psychological vulnerability in those professors’ classes, which in turn predict greater dropout intentions, lower class attendance, less class engagement, less end-of-semester interest in STEM, and lower grades. These findings contribute to our understanding of how students’ perceptions of professors’ mindsets can serve as a situational cue that affects students’ motivation, engagement, and performance in STEM.

Reframing Achievement Setbacks: A Motivation Intervention to Improve 8-Year Graduation Rates for Students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Fields
Jeremy Hamm et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming


Despite increased emphasis on educating students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, nearly half of U.S. college students who enroll in these programs fail to graduate with STEM degrees. Using archival data from the Motivation and Academic Achievement Database, we tested whether a motivation intervention to reframe causal attributions for academic setbacks improved graduation rates for college students in STEM disciplines (N = 496). Results showed that the intervention increased the odds of 8-year graduation for students who were at risk of college dropout. Findings highlight the potential of theory-informed psychological interventions to increase persistence to graduation for at-risk students in STEM fields.

Do Differences in School Quality Generate Heterogeneity in the Causal Returns to Education?
Philip DeCicca & Harry Krashinsky
NBER Working Paper, May 2020


Estimating the returns to education remains an active area of research amongst applied economists. Most studies that estimate the causal return to education exploit changes in schooling and/or labor laws to generate exogenous differences in education. An implicit assumption is that more time in school may translate into greater earnings potential. None of these studies, however, explicitly consider the quality of schooling to which impacted students are exposed. To extend this literature, we examine the interaction between school quality and policy-induced returns to schooling, using temporally-available school quality measures from Card and Krueger (1992). We find that additional compulsory schooling, via either schooling or labor laws, increases earnings only if educational inputs are of sufficiently high quality. In particular, we find a consistent role for teacher quality, as measured by relative teacher pay across states, in generating consistently positive returns to compulsory schooling.

Who Has the Time? Community College Students’ Time-Use Response to Financial Incentives
Lisa Barrow, Cecilia Rouse & Amanda McFarland
Federal Reserve Working Paper, January 2020


We evaluate the effect of performance-based scholarship programs for postsecondary students on student time use and effort and whether these effects are different for students we hypothesize may be more or less responsive to incentives. To do so, we administered a time-use survey as part of a randomized experiment in which community college students in New York City were randomly assigned to be eligible for a performance-based scholarship or to a control group that was only eligible for the standard financial aid. This paper contributes to the literature by attempting to get inside the “black box” of how students respond to a monetary incentive to improve their educational attainment. We find that students eligible for a scholarship devoted more time to educational activities, increased the quality of effort toward and engagement with their studies, and allocated less time to leisure. Additional analyses suggest that students who were plausibly more myopic - place less weight on future benefits - were more responsive to the incentives, but we find no evidence that students who are arguably more time constrained were less responsive to the incentives.

Effects of Reduced Community College Tuition on College Choices and Degree Completion
Riley Acton
Education Finance and Policy, forthcoming


Recent efforts to increase college access and completion concentrate on reducing tuition rates at community colleges, but researchers and policymakers alike have expressed concern that such reductions may not lead to long-term gains in college completion. In this paper, I use detailed data on students' college enrollment and completion outcomes to study how community college tuition rates affect students' outcomes across both public and private colleges. By exploiting spatial variation in tuition rates, I find that reducing tuition at a student's local community college by $1,000 increases enrollment at the college by 3.5 percentage points (18%) and reduces enrollment at non-local community colleges, for-profit institutions, and other private, vocationally-focused colleges, by 1.9 percentage points (15%). This shift in enrollment choices increases students' persistence in college, credit completion, and the probability that they transfer to and earn bachelor's degrees from four-year colleges.

Developing Ambitious Mathematics Instruction Through Web-Based Coaching: A Randomized Field Trial
Matthew Kraft & Heather Hill
American Educational Research Journal, forthcoming


This article describes and evaluates a web-based coaching program designed to support teachers in implementing Common Core-aligned math instruction. Web-based coaching programs can be operated at relatively lower costs, are scalable, and make it more feasible to pair teachers with coaches who have expertise in their content area and grade level. Results from our randomized field trial document sizable and sustained effects on both teachers’ ability to analyze instruction and on their instructional practice, as measured by the Mathematical Quality of Instruction instrument and student surveys. However, these improvements in instruction did not result in corresponding increases in math test scores as measured by state standardized tests or interim assessments. We discuss several possible explanations for this pattern of results.

Effective like me? Does having a more productive mentor improve the productivity of mentees?
Dan Goldhaber, John Krieg & Roddy Theobald
Labour Economics, forthcoming


We use a novel database of the preservice apprenticeships (“student teaching placements”) of teachers in Washington State to investigate the relationship between mentor effectiveness (as measured by value added) and the future effectiveness of their mentees. We find a strong, positive relationship between the effectiveness of a teacher's mentor and their own effectiveness in math and a more modest relationship in English Language Arts. The relationship in math is strongest early in a teacher's career, and would be positive and statistically significant even in the presence of non-random sorting on unobservables of the same magnitude as the sorting on observables. This suggests that at least some of this relationship reflects a causal relationship between mentor effectiveness and the future effectiveness of their mentees in math.


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