Education Program Meeting

April 30, 2010
Caroline M. Hoxby of Stanford University, Organizer

David N. Figlio, Northwestern University and NBER, and Cassandra M. D. Hart, Northwestern University
Competitive Effects of Means-Tested School Vouchers

Figlio and Hart ask how private school competition affects the test scores of public school students in the context of Florida's Corporate Tax Credit (CTC) Scholarship program, which offered scholarships to eligible low-income students to attend private schools. Specifically, the researchers examine whether students in schools that were exposed to a more competitive private school landscape saw greater improvements in their test scores after the introduction of the scholarship program than did students in schools that faced less competition. Several geo-coded variables that capture students' ease of access to private schools and the variety of nearby private school options open to students are used to characterize the degree of competition. This analysis relies on data from all Florida public school students who took standardized tests from the 1999-2000 school year through the 2006-7 school year (more than 2 million students). Figlio and Hart find that greater degrees of competition are associated with greater improvements in students' test scores following the introduction of the program. These findings are not an artifact of pre-policy trends: the degree of competition from nearby private schools matters only after the announcement of the new program, which makes nearby private competitors more affordable for eligible students. The authors also test for several moderating factors and find that schools that they would expect to be most sensitive to competitive pressure see larger improvements in their test scores as a result of increased competition.

Adalbert Mayer, Texas A&M University
Empirical Evidence on the Role of Social Networks in Job-Search

Mayer examines the effect of social connections on the initial employment of university graduates. He uses a unique dataset that matches post graduation employment data to information on social connections from He documents that social connections are related to initial job placement. Two facebook friends are four times more likely to work for the same employer after graduation than two random students. This relationship does not appear to be merely a spurious correlation - three different strategies to address potential endogeneity all suggest that the relationship is causal. In addition, the number of facebook friends is positively associated with the probability of a job offer at the time of graduation. At the same time, he finds no evidence that the structure or composition of a student's social network affects employment outcomes.

Nicholas Turner, University of Californai, San Diego
Who Benefits from Student Aid? The Economic Incidence of Tax-Based Federal Student Aid

Federal benefit programs are designed to aid targeted populations. Behavioral responses to these programs may alter the incidence of their benefits, a possibility that receives less attention in the literature than tax incidence. Turner demonstrates the importance of benefit incidence analysis by showing that the intended cost reductions of tax-based federal student aid are substantially offset by institutional price increases. Contrary to the goal of policymakers,tax-based aid crowds out institutional aid dollar-for-dollar. Unfortunately, it is not clear how institutions use these captured resources, so the ultimate incidence of the programs is uncertain.

C. Kirabo Jackson, Cornell University and NBER
A Stitch in Time: The Effects of a Novel Incentive-Based High-School Intervention on College Outcomes (NBER Working Paper No. 15722)

Jackson analyzes the longer-run effects of a program that pays both 11th and 12th grade students and teachers for passing scores on Advanced Placement exams. Using a difference-in-differences strategy, he finds that affected students attend college in greater numbers, have improved college GPAs, and are more likely to remain in college beyond their freshman year. Moreover, the program improves college outcomes even for those students who would have enrolled in college without the program. He also finds evidence of increased college graduation for black and Hispanic students ─ groups that tend to underperform in college. This suggests that relatively late high-school interventions may confer lasting positive and large effects on student achievement in college, and may be effective at improving the educational outcomes of minority students. The finding of enduring benefits when extrinsic motivators are no longer provided is important in light of concerns that incentive-based-interventions may lead to undesirable practices such as "teaching-to-the-test" and cheating.

Atila Abdulkadiroglu, Duke University; Joshua Angrist and Parag Pathak, MIT and NBER; Susan Dynarski, University of Michigan and NBER; and Thomas J. Kane, Harvard University and NBER

Accountability and Flexibility in Public Schools: Evidence from Boston's Charters and Pilots(NBER Working Paper No. 15449)

Charter schools are publicly funded but operate outside the regulatory framework and collective bargaining agreements characteristic of traditional public schools. In return for this freedom, charter schools are subject to heightened accountability. Angrist and his co-authors estimate the impact of charter school attendance on student achievement using data from Boston, where charter schools enroll a growing share of students. The researchers also evaluate an alternative to the charter model, Boston's pilot schools. These schools have some of the independence of charter schools, but operate within the school district, face little risk of closure, and are covered by many of same collective bargaining provisions as traditional public schools. Estimates using student assignment lotteries show large and significant test score gains for charter lottery winners in middle and high school. In contrast, lottery-based estimates for pilot schools are small and mostly insignificant. The large positive lottery-based estimates for charter schools are similar to estimates constructed using statistical controls in the same sample, but larger than those using statistical controls in a wider sample of schools. The latter are still substantial, however. The estimates for pilot schools are smaller and more variable than those for charters, with some significant negative effects.

Simon Burgess, Ellen Greaves, Anna Vignoles and Deborah Wilson, University of Bristol

What Parents Want: School Preferences and School Choice