Findings

Where credits are due

Kevin Lewis

February 22, 2016

Status-Aspirational Pricing: The "Chivas Regal" Strategy in U.S. Higher Education, 2006-2012

Noah Askin & Matthew Bothner

Administrative Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper examines the effect of status loss on organizations' price-setting behavior. We predict, counter to current status theory and aligned with performance feedback theory, that a status decline prompts certain organizations to charge higher prices and that there are two kinds of organizations most prone to make such price increases: those with broad appeal across disconnected types of customers and those whose most strategically similar rivals have charged high prices previously. Using panel data from U.S. News & World Report's annual rankings of private colleges and universities from 2005 to 2012, we model the effect of drops in rank that take a school below an aspiration level. We find that schools set tuition higher after a sharp decline in rank, particularly those that appeal widely to college applicants and whose rivals are relatively more expensive. This study presents a dynamic conception of status that differs from the prevailing view of status as a stable asset that yields concrete benefits. In contrast to past work that has assumed that organizations passively experience negative effects when their status falls, our results show that organizations actively respond to status loss. Status is a performance-related goal for such producers, who may increase prices as they work to recover lost ground after a status decline.

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The Effects of Revenue Changes on NCAA Athletic Departments' Expenditures

Adam Hoffer & Jared Pincin

Journal of Sport and Social Issues, February 2016, Pages 82-102

Abstract:
This study uses a panel of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I athletic department revenue and expenditure data from 225 public colleges and universities to empirically investigate the behavior of athletic departments over the period 2006-2011. Three empirical relationships were explored: (a) how changes in total revenue affect disaggregated expenditure categories, (b) how disaggregated revenue streams influence total expenditures, and (c) whether changes in revenue categories change the size of the athletic department's subsidy. The results show that additional athletic revenue increases expenditures for coaches 7.5 times more than direct expenditures for student-athletes, a ratio that increases for schools in power conferences. For every US$1 increase in ticket sale revenue, total expenditures can rise by US$0.83 and reduce a school's athletic subsidy by US$0.19.

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Accounting for the Rise in College Tuition

Grey Gordon & Aaron Hedlund

NBER Working Paper, February 2016

Abstract:
We develop a quantitative model of higher education to test explanations for the steep rise in college tuition between 1987 and 2010. The framework extends the quality-maximizing college paradigm of Epple, Romano, Sarpca, and Sieg (2013) and embeds it in an incomplete markets, life-cycle environment. We measure how much changes in underlying costs, reforms to the Federal Student Loan Program (FSLP), and changes in the college earnings premium have caused tuition to increase. All these changes combined generate a 106% rise in net tuition between 1987 and 2010, which more than accounts for the 78% increase seen in the data. Changes in the FSLP alone generate a 102% tuition increase, and changes in the college premium generate a 24% increase. Our findings cast doubt on Baumol's cost disease as a driver of higher tuition.

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Surprising Ripple Effects: How Changing the SAT Score-Sending Policy for Low-Income Students Impacts College Access and Success

Michael Hurwitz et al.

Harvard Working Paper, January 2016

Abstract:
A growing economics literature reveals that small and subtle policy adjustments can induce relatively large "ripple effects." We contribute to this literature by evaluating a College Board initiative, launched in the fall of 2007, which increased the number of free official SAT score reports afforded to low-income students and changed the time horizon over which these free score sends could be used. By resetting the default number of free SAT score reports from four to eight for SAT fee-waiver recipients, the College Board hoped to increase the number of college applications submitted by these students and to improve their college match. Using a difference-in-differences analytic strategy, we show that low-income students took advantage of this policy and were roughly 10 percentage points more likely to send eight or more score reports. We find that this policy achieved its intended goal of increasing college access and that it also favorably impacted college completion rates. Specifically, we estimate that inducing a low-income student to send one more score report, on average, increased on-time college attendance by nearly 5 percentage points and five-year bachelor's completion by slightly more than 3 percentage points. The policy impact was driven entirely by students who, based on SAT scores, were competitive candidates for admission to four-year colleges.

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Do For-Profit Universities Induce Bad Student Loans?

John Goodell

Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, forthcoming

Abstract:
Despite its great social and financial importance, little of the prior empirical research on student-loan default focuses on the role of for-profit universities. This study finds a positive association between student loan default and an institution's for-profit status - even when controlling for previously identified important factors, including graduation rates, the percentage of students who are low-income and from minority groups, and whether the institution is two- or four-year. Overall, my results are consistent with for-profit institutions systematically encouraging ill-advised loans. The results are economically significant, with default rates generally 5-6 percentage points higher for for-profit institutions.

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Learning Job Skills from Colleagues at Work: Evidence from a Field Experiment Using Teacher Performance Data

John Papay et al.

NBER Working Paper, February 2016

Abstract:
We study on-the-job learning among classroom teachers, especially learning skills from coworkers. Using data from a new field experiment, we document meaningful improvements in teacher job performance when high- and low-performing teachers working at the same school are paired and asked to work together on improving the low-performer's skills. In particular, pairs are asked to focus on specific skills identified in the low-performer's prior performance evaluations. In the classrooms of low-performing teachers treated by the intervention, students scored 0.12 standard deviations higher than students in control classrooms. These improvements in teacher performance persisted, and perhaps grew, in the year after treatment. Empirical tests suggest the improvements are likely the result of low-performing teachers learning skills from their partner.

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Creating Birds of Similar Feathers: Leveraging Similarity to Improve Teacher-Student Relationships and Academic Achievement

Hunter Gehlbach et al.

Journal of Educational Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
When people perceive themselves as similar to others, greater liking and closer relationships typically result. In the first randomized field experiment that leverages actual similarities to improve real-world relationships, we examined the affiliations between 315 9th grade students and their 25 teachers. Students in the treatment condition received feedback on 5 similarities that they shared with their teachers; each teacher received parallel feedback regarding about half of his or her 9th grade students. Five weeks after our intervention, those in the treatment conditions perceived greater similarity with their counterparts. Furthermore, when teachers received feedback about their similarities with specific students, they perceived better relationships with those students, and those students earned higher course grades. Exploratory analyses suggest that these effects are concentrated within relationships between teachers and their "underserved" students. This brief intervention appears to close the achievement gap at this school by over 60%.

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Can States Take Over and Turn Around School Districts? Evidence from Lawrence, Massachusetts

Beth Schueler, Joshua Goodman & David Deming

NBER Working Paper, January 2016

Abstract:
The Federal government has spent billions of dollars to support turnarounds of low-achieving schools, yet most evidence on the impact of such turnarounds comes from high-profile, exceptional settings and not from examples driven by state policy decisions at scale. In this paper, we study the impact of state takeover and district-level turnaround in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Takeover of the Lawrence Public School (LPS) district was driven by the state's accountability system, which increases state control in response to chronic underperformance. We find that the first two years of the LPS turnaround produced large achievement gains in math and modest gains in reading. Our preferred estimates compare LPS to other low income school districts in a differences-in-differences framework, although the results are robust to a wide variety of specifications, including student fixed effects. While the LPS turnaround was a package of interventions that cannot be fully separated, we find evidence that intensive small-group instruction led to particularly large achievement gains for participating students.

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Even Einstein Struggled: Effects of Learning About Great Scientists' Struggles on High School Students' Motivation to Learn Science

Xiaodong Lin-Siegler et al.

Journal of Educational Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Students' beliefs that success in science depends on exceptional talent negatively impact their motivation to learn. For example, such beliefs have been shown to be a major factor steering students away from taking science and math courses in high school and college. In the present study, we tested a novel story-based instruction that models how scientists achieve through failures and struggles. We designed this instruction to challenge this belief, thereby improving science learning in classroom settings. A demographically diverse group of 402 9th and 10th grade students read 1 of 3 types of stories about eminent scientists that described how the scientists (a) struggled intellectually (e.g., made mistakes in investigating scientific problems, and overcame the mistakes through effort), (b) struggled in their personal life (e.g., suffered family poverty and lack of parental support but overcame it), or (c) made great discoveries (a control condition, similar to the instructional material that appears in many science textbooks, that did not describe any struggles). Results showed that participation in either of the struggle story conditions improved science learning postintervention, relative to that of students in the control condition. Additionally, the effect of our intervention was more pronounced for low-performing students. Moreover, far more students in either of the struggle story conditions felt connected to the stories and scientists than did students in the control condition. The use of struggle stories provides a promising and implementable instructional approach that can improve student motivation and academic performance in science and perhaps other subjects as well.

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Peer Effects in Disadvantaged Primary Schools: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment

Heather Antecol, Ozkan Eren & Serkan Ozbeklik

Journal of Human Resources, Winter 2016, Pages 95-132

Abstract:
Using data from a well-executed randomized experiment, we find that the average classroom peer achievement adversely influences own student achievement in math and reading in primary schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods. In addition, using a unique feature of our data, we provide tentative evidence that our focus on students in primary schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods may potentially be the driving force behind the divergence in our results and the results in the existing literature. Finally, we show that these different peer dynamics in disadvantaged neighborhoods can potentially be explained by the frame of reference and the invidious comparison models.

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An Effort to Close Achievement Gaps at Scale Through Self-Affirmation

Geoffrey Borman, Jeffrey Grigg & Paul Hanselman

Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, March 2016, Pages 21-42

Abstract:
In this districtwide scale-up, we randomly assigned seventh-grade students within 11 schools to receive a series of writing exercises designed to promote values affirmation. Impacts on cumulative seventh-grade grade point average (GPA) for the district's racial/ethnic minority students who may be subject to stereotype threat are consistent with but smaller than those from prior smaller scale studies. Also, we find some evidence of impact on minority students' standardized mathematics test scores. These effects address a substantial portion of the achievement gap unexplained by demographics and prior achievement - the portion of the gap potentially attributable to stereotype threat. Our results suggest that persistent achievement gaps, which may be explained by subtle social and psychological phenomena, can be mitigated by brief, yet theoretically precise, social-psychological interventions.

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School Vouchers and Student Achievement: First-Year Evidence from the Louisiana Scholarship Program

Atila Abdulkadiroglu, Parag Pathak & Christopher Walters

NBER Working Paper, December 2015

Abstract:
We evaluate the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), a prominent school voucher plan. The LSP provides public funds for disadvantaged students at low-performing Louisiana public schools to attend private schools of their choice. LSP vouchers are allocated by random lottery at schools with more eligible applicants than available seats. We estimate causal effects of voucher receipt by comparing outcomes for lottery winners and losers in the first year after the program expanded statewide. This comparison reveals that LSP participation substantially reduces academic achievement. Attendance at an LSP-eligible private school lowers math scores by 0.4 standard deviations and increases the likelihood of a failing score by 50 percent. Voucher effects for reading, science and social studies are also negative and large. The negative impacts of vouchers are consistent across income groups, geographic areas, and private school characteristics, and are larger for younger children. These effects are not explained by the quality of fallback public schools for LSP applicants: students lotteried out of the program attend public schools with scores below the Louisiana average. Survey data show that LSP-eligible private schools experience rapid enrollment declines prior to entering the program, indicating that the LSP may attract private schools struggling to maintain enrollment. These results suggest caution in the design of voucher systems aimed at expanding school choice for disadvantaged students.

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Quantile Treatment Effects of College Quality on Earnings

Rodney Andrews, Jing Li & Michael Lovenheim

Journal of Human Resources, Winter 2016, Pages 200-238

Abstract:
We use administrative data from Texas to estimate how graduating from a state flagship or a community college relative to a nonflagship university affects the distribution of earnings. We control for the selection of students across sectors using a rich set of observable ability and background characteristics and find evidence of substantial heterogeneity in the returns to quality. Returns increase with earnings among UT-Austin graduates but decline among Texas A&M graduates. For community colleges, returns are negative for lower earners but go to zero for higher earners. Our estimates also point to differences in the distribution of returns by race/ethnicity.

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Accountability Pressure, Academic Standards, and Educational Triage

Douglas Lee Lauen & Michael Gaddis

Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, March 2016, Pages 127-147

Abstract:
Despite common conceptions, evidence on whether No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has had adverse effects for low achieving students is mixed. We hypothesize that the incentive to shift attention away from the lowest achieving students increases with the rigor of state standards. Using panel data from students in North Carolina, we exploit two natural experiments: increases in the rigor of standards in math in 2006 and then again in reading in 2008. We report an increase in test score gaps between low and high achievers and students near grade level. Adverse effects on low achievers are largest in the lowest achieving schools. We discuss the policy implications of our findings given the widespread adoption of more rigorous Common Core Standards.

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Comparing public, private, and informal preschool programs in a national sample of low-income children

Rebekah Levine Coley et al.

Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Summer 2016, Pages 91-105

Abstract:
Recent research has found that center-based early education and care (EEC) programs promote gains in cognitive skills for low-income children, but knowledge is limited concerning diverse types of EEC arrangements. This paper contrasts the primary EEC arrangements (Head Start, public centers, private centers, and home care) attended by economically disadvantaged children in the US with data on 4250 low-income children from the nationally-representative ECLS-B cohort. Results found public centers and Head Start programs provided children with the most educated and highly trained teachers and with the most enriching learning activities and global quality, with private centers showing moderate levels and home EEC very low levels of quality. Nonetheless, after adjusting for differential selection into EEC through propensity score weighting, low-income children who attended private EEC centers showed the highest math, reading, and language skills at age 5, with children attending Head Start and public centers also showing heightened math and reading skills in comparison to children experiencing only parent care. No differences were found in children's behavioral skills at age five in relation to EEC type. Results support enhanced access to all center preschool programs for low-income children, and suggest the need for greater understanding of the processes through which EEC affects children's school readiness skills.

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Head Start at Ages 3 and 4 Versus Head Start Followed by State Pre-K: Which Is More Effective?

Jade Marcus Jenkins et al.

Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, March 2016, Pages 88-112

Abstract:
As policymakers contemplate expanding preschool opportunities for low-income children, one possibility is to fund 2, rather than 1 year of Head Start for children at ages 3 and 4. Another option is to offer 1 year of Head Start followed by 1 year of pre-K. We ask which of these options is more effective. We use data from the Oklahoma pre-K study to examine these two "pathways" into kindergarten using regression discontinuity to estimate the effects of each age 4 program, and propensity score weighting to address selection. We find that children attending Head Start at age 3 develop stronger prereading skills in a high-quality pre-kindergarten at age 4 compared with attending Head Start at age 4. Pre-K and Head Start were not differentially linked to improvements in children's prewriting skills or premath skills. This suggests that some impacts of early learning programs may be related to the sequencing of learning experiences to more academic programming.

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When Inputs are Outputs: The Case of Graduate Student Instructors

Eric Bettinger, Bridget Terry Long & Eric Taylor

Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
We examine graduate student teaching as an input to two production processes: the education of undergraduates and the development of graduate students themselves. Using fluctuations in full-time faculty availability as an instrument, we find undergraduates are more likely to major in a subject if their first course in the subject was taught by a graduate student, a result opposite of estimates that ignore selection. Additionally, graduate students who teach more frequently graduate earlier and are more likely to subsequently be employed by a college or university.

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Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?

Daphna Bassok, Scott Latham & Anna Rorem

AERA Open, January 2016

Abstract:
Recent accounts suggest that accountability pressures have trickled down into the early elementary grades and that kindergarten today is characterized by a heightened focus on academic skills and a reduction in opportunities for play. This paper compares public school kindergarten classrooms between 1998 and 2010 using two large, nationally representative data sets. We show substantial changes in each of the five dimensions considered: kindergarten teachers' beliefs about school readiness, time spent on academic and nonacademic content, classroom organization, pedagogical approach, and use of standardized assessments. Kindergarten teachers in the later period held far higher academic expectations for children both prior to kindergarten entry and during the kindergarten year. They devoted more time to advanced literacy and math content, teacher-directed instruction, and assessment and substantially less time to art, music, science, and child-selected activities.

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Student Selection, Attrition, and Replacement in KIPP Middle Schools

Ira Nichols-Barrer et al.

Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, March 2016, Pages 5-20

Abstract:
Skeptics of the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) charter school network argue that these schools rely on selective admission, attrition, and replacement of students to produce positive achievement results. We investigate this using data covering 19 KIPP middle schools. On average, KIPP schools admit students disadvantaged in ways similar to other local students, and attrition patterns are typically no different at KIPP than at nearby schools. Unlike district schools, however, KIPP schools tend to replace students who exit with higher achieving students, and fewer students are replaced in the later years of middle school. Overall, KIPP's positive achievement impacts do not appear to be explained by advantages in the prior achievement of KIPP students, even when attrition and replacement patterns are taken into account.

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Can Incentives for Parents and Students Change Educational Inputs? Experimental Evidence from Summer School

Paco Martorell et al.

Economics of Education Review, February 2016, Pages 113-126

Abstract:
This paper examines whether incentives for parents and students can increase educational inputs, in this case, specifically, attendance. We evaluate the impact of randomly-assigned incentives for improving attendance at the summer program of a large metropolitan school district. Students were assigned to one of three experimental conditions: (1) financial incentives for parents combined with non-financial incentives for students, (2) non-financial incentives for students (no incentives for parents), and (3) control. We find that the combination of the parent and student incentives increased the daily attendance rate by 9 percent and the likelihood of having perfect attendance by 63 percent. The student-only incentives had a smaller and statistically insignificant effect on attendance. We find little evidence that these incentives affected attendance rates or standardized test scores during the regular school year following the summer program, but we do find that they increased the likelihood of re-enrolling in the district.

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Sticker Shock: How Information Affects Citizen Support for Public School Funding

Beth Schueler & Martin West

Public Opinion Quarterly, Spring 2016, Pages 90-113

Abstract:
This study examines the role of information in shaping public opinion in the context of support for education spending. While there is broad public support for increasing government funding for public schools, Americans tend to underestimate what is currently spent. We embed a series of experiments in a nationally representative survey administered in 2012 (n = 2,993) to examine whether informing citizens about current levels of education spending alters public opinion about whether funding should increase. Providing information on per-pupil spending in a respondent's local school district reduces the probability that he or she will express support for increasing spending by 22 percentage points on average. Informing respondents about state-average teacher salaries similarly depresses support for salary increases. These effects are larger among respondents who underestimate per-pupil spending and teacher salaries by a greater amount, consistent with the idea that the observed changes in opinion are driven, at least in part, by informational effects, as opposed to priming alone.


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