Kevin Lewis

September 23, 2020

Are School Reopening Decisions Related to Union Influence?
Corey DeAngelis & Christos Makridis
MIT Working Paper, September 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread school closures affecting millions of K-12 students in the United States in the spring of 2020. Groups representing teachers have pushed to reopen public schools virtually in the fall because of concerns about the health risks associated with reopening in person. In theory, stronger teachers’ unions may more successfully influence public school districts to reopen without in-person instruction. Using data on the reopening decisions of 835 public school districts in the United States, we find that school districts in locations with stronger teachers’ unions are less likely to reopen in person even after we control semi-parametrically for differences in local demographic characteristics. These results are robust to four measures of union strength, various potential confounding characteristics, and a further disaggregation to the county level. We also do not find evidence to suggest that measures of COVID-19 risk are correlated with school reopening decisions.

Teacher accountability reforms and the supply and quality of new teachers
Matthew Kraft et al.
Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming


In recent years, states have sought to increase accountability for public school teachers by implementing a package of reforms centered on high-stakes evaluation systems. We examine the effect of these reforms on the supply and quality of new teachers. Leveraging variation across states and time, we find that accountability reforms reduced the number of newly licensed teacher candidates and increased the likelihood of unfilled teaching positions, particularly in hard-to-staff schools. Evidence also suggests that reforms increased the quality of newly hired teachers by reducing the likelihood new teachers attended unselective undergraduate institutions. Decreases in job security, satisfaction, and autonomy are likely mechanisms for these effects.

Exploring the Associations Between Delayed School Entry and Achievement in Primary and Secondary School
Sally Larsen, Callie Little & William Coventry
Child Development, forthcoming


This research investigated whether delayed school entry was associated with higher achievement in national tests of reading and numeracy in Grades 3, 5, 7, and 9 (n = 2,823). Delayed entry was related to advantages in reading (0.14 SD) and numeracy (0.08 SD) at Grade 3, although little variance was explained (1%–2%). This slight advantage persisted for both domains in Grades 5 and 7, albeit with smaller effects. In Grade 9 there was no association between delayed entry and either reading or numeracy. Exploratory analyses with subsamples in each grade (n = 424–667) revealed no associations between delayed entry and achievement after controlling for inattention and hyperactivity, and negative associations between inattention and achievement in all grades in both domains (−0.33, −0.49 SD).

The Multiplier Effect of Education Expenditure
Maarten De Ridder, Simona Hannon & Damjan Pfajfar
Federal Reserve Working Paper, August 2020


This paper examines the short-run effects of federal education expenditures on local income. We exploit city-level variation in exposure to national changes in the $30-billion Federal Pell Grant Program, which is the largest program to help low-income students attend college in the U.S., to calculate fiscal multipliers of education expenditures. An increase in Pell grants by 1 percent of a city's income raises local income by 2.4 percent over the next two years. This multiplier effect is larger than estimates for military spending (1.5 on average). Multipliers are higher when grants are awarded to students at non-profit colleges, as for-profit colleges absorb most of the grant increases with raises in tuition. Multipliers are also higher during recessions than in expansions: Pell grants can be an effective tool for countercyclical policy that adds to already established benefits, such as, increasing the affordability of college and fostering long-run economic growth.

School Finance Reform and Juvenile Crime
Hamid NoghaniBehambari
Texas Tech University Working Paper, July 2020


Several states initiated school finance reform during the post-1990s, commonly named the “adequacy” era, with the primary purpose of providing adequate funding for low-income school districts. This paper uses the space-time variation in court-ordered reforms in this period as a shock to school spending and investigates its effects on juvenile arrest rates and risky behaviors. Using a 2SLS-DDD approach and a wide range of datasets, I find that exposure to reform reduces the juvenile arrest rates, increases the likelihood of high school graduation, increases the time spent on the educational activity, and reduces risky behaviors at schools. A 10% rise in real per-pupil spending is associated with 7.1 fewer arrests per 1,000 in a population aged 15-19. This rise is equivalent to a reduction of roughly 90,113 arrests annually. It also implies a minimum of 16% social externality in school spending.

Who Profits From Amateurism? Rent-Sharing in Modern College Sports
Craig Garthwaite et al.
NBER Working Paper, August 2020


Intercollegiate amateur athletics in the US largely bars student-athletes from sharing in any of the profits generated by their participation, which creates substantial economic rents for universities. These rents are primarily generated by men’s football and men’s basketball programs. We characterize these economic rents using comprehensive revenue and expenses data for college athletic departments between 2006 and 2019, and we estimate rent-sharing elasticities to measure how rents flow to women’s sports and other men’s sports and lead to increased spending on facilities, coaches’ salaries, and other athletic department personnel. Using complete roster data for every student-athlete playing sports at these schools in 2018, we find that the rent-sharing effectively transfers resources away from students who are more likely to be black and more likely to come from poor neighborhoods towards students who are more likely to be white and come from higher-income neighborhoods. To understand the magnitude of the available rents, we calculate a wage structure for college athletes using the collective bargaining agreements in professional sports leagues as a benchmark. We also discuss how our results help understand how universities have responded to recent threats to these rents arising from litigation, legislation, and the global coronavirus pandemic.

Interjurisdictional Competition and Policy Preferences of the Public
Deven Carlson, Byron Carlson & Elizabeth Bell
Journal of Politics, forthcoming


Prior research provides evidence that jurisdictions compete with one another in several of these domains. This evidence, however, comes almost exclusively from the decisions of political elites and provides little insight into potential public responsiveness to interjurisdictional competition. In this paper, we leverage a statewide referendum on education funding levels in Oklahoma to examine whether the degree of competition from across state borders systematically affected public support for increased educational funding. Results indicate that voting precincts facing stiff educational competition from school districts in other states supported the referendum at higher rates than precincts facing little competitive pressure.

Early childhood education and life‐cycle health
Jorge Luis García & James Heckman
Health Economics, forthcoming


This study forecasts the life‐cycle treatment effects on health of a high‐quality early childhood program. Our predictions combine microsimulation using nonexperimental data with experimental data from a midlife long‐term follow‐up. The follow‐up incorporated a full epidemiological exam. The program mainly benefits males and significantly reduces the prevalence of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and mortality across the life‐cycle. For men, we estimate an average reduction of 3.8 disability‐adjusted life years (DALYs). The reduction in DALYs is relatively small for women. The gain in quality‐adjusted life years is almost enough to offset all of the costs associated with program implementation for males and half of program costs for women.

Elusive Longer-Run Impacts of Head Start: Replications Within and Across Cohorts
Remy Pages et al.
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, forthcoming


Using an additional decade of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 Children and Young Adults (CNLSY), this study replicated and extended Deming’s evaluation of Head Start’s life cycle skill formation impacts in three ways. Extending the measurement interval for Deming’s adulthood outcomes, we found no statistically significant impacts on earnings and mixed evidence of impacts on other adult outcomes. Applying Deming’s sibling comparison framework to more recent birth cohorts born to CNLSY mothers revealed mostly negative Head Start impacts. Combining all cohorts showed generally null impacts on school-age and early adulthood outcomes.

The Cascading Effects of Reducing Student Stress: Cooperative Learning as a Means to Reduce Emotional Problems and Promote Academic Engagement
Mark Van Ryzin & Cary Roseth
Journal of Early Adolescence, forthcoming


Adolescents, particularly early adolescents, are vulnerable to stress created by negative peer interactions. Stress, in turn, can lead to increased mental health problems and reduced academic engagement, in addition to negative long-term consequences for cognitive development and physical health. Using four waves (2 years) of data from a cluster randomized trial (N = 15 middle schools, 1,890 students, 47.1% female, 75.2% White), we evaluated whether enhancements to peer relations, brought about through carefully structured small-group learning activities (i.e., cooperative learning), could reduce stress and emotional problems and promote academic engagement. We hypothesized that the increased social contact created by cooperative learning would promote greater peer relatedness, reducing student stress and, in turn, reducing emotional problems and promoting academic engagement. Our results confirmed these hypotheses. We conclude that cooperative learning can provide social, behavioral, academic, and mental health benefits for students.

The effects of charter school enrollment losses and tuition reimbursements on school districts: Lifting boats or sinking them?
Bryan Mann & Paul Bruno
Educational Policy, forthcoming


We analyze a natural experiment in which policymakers in Pennsylvania first implemented, and later removed, reimbursements to districts for students exiting to brick and mortar and cyber charter schools. Generalized difference-in-difference models show that larger shares of students enrolling in charter schools predict decrements in spending, financial health, and achievement in sending districts; however, these relationships attenuate in years when districts receive reimbursements. After receiving reimbursements, districts with increased competition spent more on instruction and instructional support services, but not on facilities or non-instructional operations. Perhaps due to higher instructional expenditures, the relationship between competition and student achievement in reimbursement years is significantly less negative, and at times even positive, compared to non-reimbursement years. Cyber charter schools induce fewer instructional expenditures in districts than brick and mortar charter schools. The findings show clear policy choices can support traditional public systems experiencing competition.

Dissertators with Distantly Related Foci Face Divergent Near-Term Outcomes
Kevin Kniffin et al.
NBER Working Paper, September 2020


Institutional leaders have long championed interdisciplinary research; however, researchers have paid relatively little attention to the people responding to such calls and their subsequent career outcomes. With the benefit of two large datasets spanning from 1986 through 2016, we show that interdisciplinary dissertations have become consistently more common in recent years as institutional leaders have highlighted the value of boundary-spanning research for solving important and emergent problems. With the benefit of survey data from a near-complete population of all dissertators in the US starting in 2001 through 2016, we observe a consistent upward trend in interdisciplinary dissertations. Unfortunately, we show that these interdisciplinary dissertators have experienced a comparably persistent penalty when considering salaries for their first year after earning the PhD. We also show that among interdisciplinary dissertators, individuals in lower-paying fields tend to earn more when choosing distantly related topic-combinations whereas researchers in higher-paying fields tend to be most rewarded for staying within relatively narrow disciplinary silos.

Labor Market Trajectories for Community College Graduates: How Returns to Certificates and Associate's degrees Evolve Over Time
Veronica Minaya & Judith Scott-Clayton
Education Finance and Policy, forthcoming


We estimate labor market returns to terminal associate's degrees and certificates, with a particular focus on how returns for different credential types evolve over a longer period of time (11 years post entry) than most of the prior literature. We also explore how returns vary depending on labor market conditions and on which labor market outcome metric is used. Using administrative data from Ohio and an individual fixed-effects approach, we find that the value of an associate's degree grows substantially after graduation, and this finding is robust to choice of specification and outcome. The returns to a long-term certificate are flat over time in our main specification, but more sensitive to assumptions about individual-specific earnings trends. Returns to associate's degrees are notably higher in recession years versus pre-recession years. Finally, we find that associate's degrees lead to improved outcomes relative to non-completion across a range of metrics, including higher paying jobs, more stability in employment over time, and a greater likelihood of earning a living wage, while certificates generally pay off via the employment margin and a reduced likelihood of claiming unemployment insurance.

Effects of Four-Day School Weeks on School Finance and Achievement: Evidence From Oklahoma
Emily Morton
Educational Researcher, forthcoming


Motivated by potential financial savings, 4-day school weeks have proliferated across the United States in recent years, reaching public schools in 24 states as of 2019. The consequences of the 4-day school week for students, schools, and communities are largely unknown. This article uses district-level panel data from Oklahoma and a difference-in-differences research design to examine the causal effect of the 4-day schedule on school district finance and academic achievement. Results indicate that 4-day weeks decrease districts’ federal revenues and their noninstructional and support services expenditures. Decreases are concentrated specifically in operations, transportation, and food services expenditures and amount to approximately 2.03% of the average 4-day district’s budget. There is no detectable effect of the 4-day week on academic achievement.


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