April 15, 2016
Caroline M. Hoxby of Stanford University, Organizer

Eric S. Taylor, Harvard University

Skills, Job Tasks, and Productivity in Teaching: Evidence from a Randomized Trial of Instruction Practices

Taylor studies how teachers' assigned job tasks — the basic practices they are asked to use in the classroom — affect the returns to math skills in teacher productivity. The results demonstrate the importance of distinguishing between workers' skills and worker's job tasks. Taylor examines a randomized trial of different approaches to teaching math, each approach codified in a set of day-to-day tasks. Teachers were tested to measure their math skills. Teacher productivity — measured with student test scores — is increasing in math skills when teachers use conventional "direct-instruction" practices: explaining and modeling math rules and procedures. The relationship is weaker, perhaps negative, for newer "student-led" instruction tasks.

John Bound, University of Michigan and NBER; Breno Braga, The Urban Institute; Gaurav Khanna, University of Michigan; and Sarah Turner, University of Virginia and NBER

A Passage to America: University Funding and International Students

Substantial state subsidies to public higher education in the United States have historically allowed in-state students at public colleges and universities to pay significantly lower tuition and fee levels than their out-of-state counterparts. With the marked decline in state appropriations for higher education in recent years, some university leaders are faced with the choice between increasing tuition levels, cutting expenditures — and thereby reducing resources per student — or enrolling a greater proportion of students paying full out-of-state tuition. With strong economic growth in countries like China and India, the pool of undergraduate students from abroad who are academically and financially prepared to attend U.S. colleges has increased markedly in the last decade. In this paper, Bound, Braga, Khanna, and Turner examine whether declines in state appropriations have led public universities to enroll more foreign students who are able to pay the full-fare tuition. For the period between 1996 and 2012, the researchers estimate that a 10% reduction in state appropriations is associated with an increase in foreign enrollment of 12% at public research universities and about 17% at the resource-intensive AAU public universities. These increases in foreign enrollment are associated with declines in in-state enrollment at the relatively selective institutions among public universities. The empirical results, in combination with a model of university behavior, tell a compelling story about the link between changes in state funding and foreign enrollment in recent years.

Brian G. Knight, Brown University and NBER, and Nathan M. Schiff, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics

The Out-of-State Tuition Distortion

Public universities in the United States typically charge much higher tuition to non-residents. Perhaps due, at least in part, to these differences in tuition, roughly 75 percent of students nationwide attend in-state institutions. While distinguishing between residents and non-residents is consistent with welfare maximization by state governments, it may lead to economic inefficiencies from a national perspective, with potential welfare gains associated with reducing the gap between in-state and out-of-state tuition. Knight and Schiff first formalize this idea in a simple model. While a social planner maximizing national welfare does not distinguish between residents and non-residents, state governments set higher tuition for non-residents. The welfare gains from reducing this tuition gap can be characterized by a sufficient statistic relating out-of-state enrollment to the tuition gap. The researchers then estimate this sufficient statistic via a border discontinuity design using data on the geographic distribution of student residences by institution.

Jason M. Lindo, Texas A&M University and NBER; Peter M. Siminski, University of Wollongong; and Isaac Swensen, Montana State University

College Party Culture and Sexual Assault (NBER Working Paper No. 21828)

Lindo, Siminski, and Swensen consider the degree to which events that intensify partying increase sexual assault. Estimates are based on panel data from campus and local law-enforcement agencies and an identification strategy that exploits plausibly random variation in the timing of Division 1 football games. The estimates indicate that these events increase daily reports of rape with 17- to 24-year-old victims by 28 percent. The effects are driven largely by 17- to 24-year-old offenders and by offenders unknown to the victim, but the researchers also find significant effects on incidents involving offenders of other ages and on incidents involving offenders known to the victim.

Jarod Apperson, Carycruz Bueno, and Tim Sass, Georgia State University

Do the Cheated Ever Prosper? The Long-Run Effects of Test-Score Manipulation by Teachers on Student Outcomes

One of the concerns over high-stakes testing is the incentive for teachers to alter the scores of their students. Apperson, Bueno, and Sass investigate the effects of teacher cheating on subsequent student achievement, attendance, behavior and educational attainment. They find that test scores drop below expected levels in the first post-cheating year. These effects persist for reading and ELA, but not for math. The drop in later test scores appears to be due in part to a reduction in access to remediation services. The authors also find some evidence that cheated middle-school students may be more likely to drop out of high school.

David J. Deming, Harvard University and NBER

The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market (NBER Working Paper No. 21473)

The slow growth of high-paying jobs in the U.S. since 2000 and rapid advances in computer technology have sparked fears that human labor will eventually be rendered obsolete. Yet while computers perform cognitive tasks of rapidly increasing complexity, simple human interaction has proven difficult to automate. In this paper, Deming shows that the labor market increasingly rewards social skills. Since 1980, jobs with high social skill requirements have experienced greater relative growth throughout the wage distribution. Moreover, employment and wage growth has been strongest in jobs that require high levels of both cognitive skill and social skill. To understand these patterns, the researcher develops a model of team production where workers "trade tasks" to exploit their comparative advantage. In the model, social skills reduce coordination costs, allowing workers to specialize and trade more efficiently. The model generates predictions about sorting and the relative returns to skill across occupations, which Deming tests and confirms using data from the NLSY79. The female advantage in social skills may have played some role in the narrowing of gender gaps in labor market outcomes since 1980.

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