Attending Values

Kevin Lewis

March 30, 2020

Avoiding Us versus Them: How Schools’ Dependence on Privileged “Helicopter” Parents Influences Enforcement of Rules
Jessica McCrory Calarco
American Sociological Review, forthcoming


As privilege-dependent organizations, U.S. public schools have an interest in catering to higher-SES White families. But, what happens when privileged families’ interests conflict with schools’ stated goals? Focusing on the case of homework, and drawing insights from organizational theory, cultural capital theory, and research on parent involvement in schools, I examine how schools’ dependence on higher-SES White families influences their enforcement of rules. Using a longitudinal, ethnographic study of one socioeconomically diverse public elementary school, I find that teachers wanted to enforce homework rules, but they worried doing so would lead to conflict with the higher-SES White “helicopter” parents, on whom they relied most for support. Thus, teachers selectively enforced rules, using evidence of “helicopter” parenting to determine which students “deserved” leeway and lenience. Those decisions, in turn, contributed to inequalities in teachers’ punishment and evaluation of students. Broadly, these findings suggest privilege-dependence leads schools to appease privileged families, even when those actions contradict the school’s stated goals. These findings also challenge standard policy assumptions about parent involvement and homework, and they suggest policies aimed at reducing the power of privilege are necessary for lessening inequalities in school.

Early Childhood Education and Life-cycle Health
Jorge Luis García & James Heckman
NBER Working Paper, March 2020


This paper forecasts the life-cycle treatment effects on health of a high-quality early childhood program. Our predictions combine microsimulation using non-experimental 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 years (DALYs). The reduction in DALYs is relatively small for women. The gain in quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) is almost enough to offset all of the costs associated with program implementation for males and half of program costs for women.

The College Admissions Contribution to the Labor Market Beauty Premium
David Ong, Man Xie & Junsen Zhang
University of Florida Working Paper, February 2020


Beautiful people earn more. Surprisingly, this premium is larger for men than for women and is independent of the degree of customer contact. Overlooked is the possibility that beauty can influence college admissions. We explore this academic contributor to the labor market beauty earnings premium by sampling 1,800 social media profiles of students from universities ranked from 1 to 200 in China and the US. Chinese universities use only standardized test scores for admissions. In contrast, US universities use also grades and extracurricular activities, which are not necessarily beauty-blind. Consistent with beauty-blind admissions, student’s beauty is uncorrelated with the rank of their college in China. In the US, White men from higher ranked colleges are better-looking. As expected, the correlation is insignificant for White men who attended tech colleges and is highest for those who attended private colleges. We also find that White women and minorities of either gender are not better-looking at higher ranked colleges. Our evidence indicates a college admissions contribution to the labor market beauty premium for US White men, but not for students in China of either gender, White women, or minorities of either gender in the US, or for White men who attended technology colleges.

School district operational spending and student outcomes: Evidence from tax elections in seven states
Carolyn Abott et al.
Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming


We use close tax elections to estimate the impact of school district funding increases on operational spending and student outcomes across seven states. Districts with passing levies directed new revenue toward support services and instructor salaries but did not increase teacher staffing levels. These districts eventually realized gains in student achievement and attainment. Our preferred estimates imply that increasing operational spending by $1000 per pupil increased test scores by approximately 0.15 of a standard deviation and graduation rates by approximately 9 percentage points. There is some evidence of diminishing returns, as these effects are driven by districts below the median in spending per pupil. Based on research linking academic outcomes to earnings, we conclude that these spending increases were likely cost-effective.

Winners and Losers? The Effect of Gaining and Losing Access to Selective Colleges on Education and Labor Market Outcomes
Sandra Black, Jeffrey Denning & Jesse Rothstein
NBER Working Paper, March 2020


Selective college admissions are fundamentally a question of tradeoffs: Given capacity, admitting one student means rejecting another. Research to date has generally estimated average effects of college selectivity, and has been unable to distinguish between the effects on students gaining access and on those losing access under alternative admissions policies. We use the introduction of the Top Ten Percent rule and administrative data from the State of Texas to estimate the effect of access to a selective college on student graduation and earnings outcomes. We estimate separate effects on two groups of students. The first -- highly ranked students at schools which previously sent few students to the flagship university -- gain access due to the policy; the second -- students outside the top tier at traditional “feeder” high schools -- tend to lose access. We find that students in the first group see increases in college enrollment and graduation with some evidence of positive earnings gains 7-9 years after college. In contrast, students in the second group attend less selective colleges but do not see declines in overall college enrollment, graduation, or earnings. The Top Ten Percent rule, introduced for equity reasons, thus also seems to have improved efficiency.

Virtual Illusion: Comparing Student Achievement and Teacher and Classroom Characteristics in Online and Brick-and-Mortar Charter Schools
Brian Fitzpatrick et al.
Educational Researcher, forthcoming


As researchers continue to examine the growing number of charter schools in the United States, they have focused attention on the significant heterogeneity of charter effects on student achievement. Our article contributes to this agenda by examining the achievement effects of virtual charter schools vis-à-vis brick-and-mortar charters and traditional public schools and whether characteristics of teachers and classrooms explain the observed impacts. We found that students who switched to virtual charter schools experienced large, negative effects on mathematics and English/language arts achievement that persisted over time and that these effects could not be explained by observed teacher or classroom characteristics.

Peers’ Parents and Educational Attainment: The Exposure Effect
Bobby Chung
Labour Economics, forthcoming


This paper discusses the ‘exposure effect’ in child development by investigating the extent to which the educational background of peers’ parents is related to a child’s future college attainment. I analyze the friendship networks of a nationally representative sample of high-school students in the US. To address endogenous friendship formation, I adopt two distinct strategies: a selection correction approach and exploiting within-school cohort variations in parental compositions. I find that peers’ academic performance and other observed characteristics, with a rich set of control variables and network fixed effect, do not fully explain the spillover from peers’ parents of the same gender. Effects are more prominent for students with a disadvantaged background - less-educated parents, single-mother households, and less caring fathers. Suggestive evidence is provided to support the role model effect as a plausible channel.

Multidimensional Skills and the Returns to Schooling: Evidence from an Interactive Fixed Effects Approach and a Linked Survey‐Administrative Dataset
Mohitosh Kejriwal, Xiaoxiao Li & Evan Totty
Journal of Applied Econometrics, forthcoming


This paper presents new evidence on returns to schooling based on an interactive fixed effects framework that allows for multiple unobserved skills with potentially time‐varying prices as well as individual‐level heterogeneity in returns. This constitutes a substantive generalization of most existing approaches. Our empirical analysis employs a unique linked survey‐administrative panel dataset on education and earnings. We find average marginal returns to schooling of about 2.8‐4.4 percent relative to least squares/instrumental variable estimates between 7.7‐12.7 percent. Omitted ability accounts for a larger fraction of the aggregate least squares bias compared to heterogeneity. We also find considerable heterogeneity in individual returns.

The Costs and Benefits of Early College High Schools
Drew Atchison et al.
Education Finance and Policy, forthcoming


Early Colleges (ECs) provide high school students access to college coursework with the goal of increasing postsecondary opportunities for traditionally underrepresented students. We examine the impact of ECs on postsecondary attainment, calculate the resulting monetary benefits, and then estimate the per-student costs of ECs compared to traditional high schools to compare costs and benefits. Our findings indicate that students enrolling in ECs in our study are more likely to attend college and graduate with an associate or bachelor's degree. Increased educational attainment from EC enrollment results in lifetime benefits of almost $58,000 per student. ECs cost approximately $950 more than traditional high schools per student per year, resulting in an overall cost of $3,800 more per student across four years of high school. Comparing benefits to cost, we estimate a net present value (NPV) of $54,000 per student and a benefit to cost ratio of 15.1. Even when using conservative estimates of costs (upper bound) and benefits (lower bound), we calculate an NPV of over $27,000 and a benefit to cost ratio of 4.6. These results indicate that investment in ECs pays off through increased earnings for EC students, increased tax revenue, and decreased government spending.

Student debt, income-based repayment, and self-employment: Evidence from NLSY 1997 and NFCS 2015
Srikant Devaraj & Pankaj Patel
Applied Economics, forthcoming


Based on the income-risk hypothesis, we test whether those with higher student debt are less likely to be self-employed. We also test if the income-based repayment programme increases the odds of self-employment. Using a longitudinal sample of 6,762 participants (1998–2011) in National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97) and propensity score matching, we find that having student debt decreases the odds of self-employment by 1.3 percentage points. Further, using eligibility for income-based repayment programme as an instrument driving effect of loans in NLSY97 sample or use of income-based repayment plans in National Financial Capability Study 2015 increases the odds of self-employment of about 2 percent. The effect sizes are smaller than previous studies on student loans on labour market outcomes.

The Connection Project: Changing the peer environment to improve outcomes for marginalized adolescents
Joseph Allen et al.
Development and Psychopathology, forthcoming


This study evaluated a school-based intervention to enhance adolescent peer relationships and improve functional outcomes, building upon Ed Zigler’s seminal contribution in recognizing the potential of academic contexts to enhance social and emotional development. Adolescents (N = 610) primarily from economically or racially/ethnically marginalized groups were assessed preintervention, postintervention, and at 4-month follow-up in a randomized controlled trial. At program completion, intervention participants reported significantly increased quality of peer relationships; by 4-month follow-up, this increased quality was also observable by peers outside of the program, and program participants also displayed higher levels of academic engagement and lower levels of depressive symptoms. These latter effects appear to have potentially been mediated via participants’ increased use of social support. The potential of the Connection Project intervention specifically, and of broader efforts to activate adolescent peer relationships as potent sources of social support and growth more generally within the secondary school context, is discussed.

Do Teach For America Corps Members Still Improve Student Achievement? Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial of Teach For America's Scale-Up Effort
Melissa Clark & Eric Isenberg
Education Finance and Policy, forthcoming


In 2010, Teach For America launched a major expansion effort, funded in part by a five-year Investing in Innovation scale-up grant from the U.S. Department of Education. To examine the effectiveness of TFA elementary school teachers in the second year of the scale-up, we recruited 36 schools from 10 states and randomly assigned students in participating schools to a class taught by a TFA teacher or a class taught by a comparison teacher. We then gathered data on student achievement and surveyed teachers on their educational background, preparation for teaching, and teaching experience. The TFA teachers in the study schools had substantially less teaching experience than comparison teachers but were more likely to have graduated from a selective college. Overall, TFA and comparison teachers in the study were similarly effective in teaching both reading and math. TFA teachers in early elementary classrooms (grades 2 and below), however, were more effective than comparison teachers: TFA teachers in grades prekindergarten through 2 had a positive, statistically significant effect on students' reading achievement of 0.12 standard deviations, and TFA teachers in grades 1 and 2 had a positive, marginally significant effect on student math achievement of 0.16 standard deviations.

College Early Admissions: Determinants and Welfare
Zeky Murra-Anton
Brown University Working Paper, February 2020


I study a college-admissions model with two need-blind colleges and a continuum of students. In an early-admissions game in which colleges can choose either binding, nonbinding, or no early admissions, a unique equilibrium outcome exists. In equilibrium, only a budget-constrained college offers binding early admissions, as this program screens for high-income students. Using the model to evaluate welfare, I find that early-admissions programs make all students better off but (among colleges) only make budget-constrained colleges better off. Finally, I show that my model is consistent with stylized facts about financial aid, admissions, and college characteristics.

Character strengths and performance outcomes among military brat and non-brat cadets
Courtney Gosnell et al.
Military Psychology, March 2020, Pages 186-197


Although many studies have compared military vs. civilian samples on a wide variety of characteristics, few have examined these differences within the context of those who commit a portion of their life to the military. In this study, we explored how West Point cadets with (“military brat cadet”) or without (“non-brat cadet”) a family military background might differ in terms of their character strengths. Although the cadets shared many similarities, we found that several strengths related to self-control were higher in non-brat cadets than brat cadets and that many of these self-control-related strengths were important predictors of performance for brat cadets (but not non-brat cadets). For non-brat cadets, strengths related to a drive to fully involve themselves and navigate relationships with others were better predictors of performance. In a second study utilizing a different class of cadets, we again found support for the idea that nonmilitary brat cadets possessed more self-control than military brat cadets. Better understanding the unique strengths and weaknesses of those within the military who have vs. don’t have a military background may provide important insights for future recruitment, training, and military preparation.

Heterogeneous Effects of Early Algebra across California Middle Schools
Andrew McEachin, Thurston Domina & Andrew Penner
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, forthcoming


How should schools assign students to more rigorous math courses so as best to help their academic outcomes? We identify several hundred California middle schools that used 7th‐grade test scores to place students into 8th‐grade algebra courses and use a regression discontinuity design to estimate average impacts and heterogeneity across schools. Enrolling in 8th‐grade algebra boosts students’ enrollment in advanced math in ninth grade by 30 percentage points and eleventh grade by 16 percentage points. Math scores in tenth grade rise by 0.05 standard deviations. Women, students of color, and English‐language learners benefit disproportionately from placement into early algebra. Importantly, the benefits of 8th‐grade algebra are substantially larger in schools that set their eligibility threshold higher in the baseline achievement distribution. This suggests a potential tradeoff between increased access and rates of subsequent math success.

A Switch in Time: The Academic Effects of Shifting Math Remediation from College to High School
Angela Boatman & Christopher Bennett
Education Finance and Policy, forthcoming


One explanation for negative or null findings in prior research on postsecondary remediation is that college may be too late to address issues of academic under-preparedness. This study evaluates the impact on student outcomes when college math remediation is offered in the senior year of high school. The Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support (SAILS) program in Tennessee targets students with low 11th grade ACT math scores. Students who pass SAILS in 12th grade can enroll directly in college-level math courses at any Tennessee community college. Using a triple-difference design, we exploit variation in students' treatment status based on ACT math scores (remediation-eligible vs. remediation-ineligible), high school adoption of SAILS (first cohort vs. later cohort), and senior year (before vs. during first SAILS year). We find that SAILS-eligible students in the first cohort were significantly less likely to enroll in remedial math courses in college, and more likely to enroll in and pass college-level math overall. These students also earn 2.8 additional credits by their second year. We detect no significant differences in high school graduation rates, college enrollment, or postsecondary credential attainment within two years. The program advanced progress towards several, but not all, of the potential goals examined.


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