Education’s Role in Earnings, Employment, and Economic Mobility
Amid dialogue about the soaring student loan burden, questions arise about how educational characteristics (school type, selectivity, and major) affect disparities in post-college labor market outcomes. In this post, we specifically explore the impact of such school and major choices on employment, earnings, and upward economic mobility. Insight into determinants of economic disparity is key for understanding long-term consumption and inequality patterns. In addition, this gives us a window into factors that could be used to ameliorate income inequality and promote economic mobility.
Intended college attendance: evidence from an experiment on college returns and costs
Despite a robust college premium, college attendance rates in the United States have remained stagnant and exhibit a substantial socioeconomic gradient. We focus on information gaps?specifically, incomplete information about college benefits and costs?as a potential explanation for these patterns. For this purpose, we conduct an information experiment about college returns and costs embedded within a representative survey of U.S. household heads. We show that, at the baseline, perceptions of college costs and benefits are severely and systematically biased: 75 percent of our respondents ...
College Access and Attendance Patterns: A Long-Run View
We harmonize the results of 42 different data sets and studies dating back to the early 20th century to construct a time series of college attendance patterns for the United States. We find an important reversal around the time of World War II: before that time, family characteristics such as income were the better predictor of college attendance; afterwards, academic ability was the better predictor. We construct a model of college choice that can explain this reversal. The model's central mechanism is an exogenous rise in the demand for college that leads better colleges to become ...
Optimal Need-Based Financial Aid
We study the optimal design of student financial aid as a function of parental income. We derive optimal financial aid formulas in a general model. For a simple model version, we derive mild conditions on primitives under which poorer students receive more aid even without distributional concerns. We quantitatively extend this result to an empirical model of selection into college for the United States that comprises multidimensional heterogeneity, endogenous parental transfers, dropout, labor supply in college, and uncertain returns. Optimal financial aid is strongly declining in parental ...
Who Values Access to College?
At first glance, college appears to be of great value to most, given its mean returns and sharply subsidized tuition. An empirically-disciplined human capital model that allows for variation in college readiness suggests otherwise: Nearly half of high school completers place zero value on access to college. This renders blanket subsidies potentially inefficient. As proof of principle, we show that redirecting subsidies away from those who would nonetheless enroll--towards a stock index retirement fund for those who do not even when college is subsidized--increases ex-ante welfare by 1 percent ...
Community Education Circles in the Lawrence Public Schools: evaluation design and baseline survey data
This paper describes a plan for evaluating the Community Education Circles (CECs) program that is being implemented in the Lawrence Public Schools as part of an effort to enhance family-school engagement and improve outcomes for both students and parents. The CECs program supports the larger Lawrence Working Families Initiative, which in 2013 was awarded a multiyear grant through the Boston Fed?s Working Cities Challenge. This paper accomplishes several objectives: (1) describe the goals and methods of the CECs program as well as the larger goals of the Lawrence Working Families Initiative; ...
The Role of Selective High Schools in Equalizing Educational Outcomes: Heterogeneous Effects by Neighborhood Socioeconomic Status
We investigate whether elite Chicago public high schools can help close the achievement gap between high-achieving students from more and less affluent neighborhoods. Seats are allocated based on prior achievement with 70 percent reserved for high-achieving applicants from four neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) categories. Using regression discontinuity design, we find no effect on test scores or college attendance for students from high- or low-SES neighborhoods and positive effects on student reports of their experiences. For students from low-SES neighborhoods, we estimate ...
Who Values Access to College?
A first glance at US data suggests that college -- given its mean returns and sharply subsidized cost for all enrollees -- could be of great value to most. Using an empirically-disciplined human capital model that allows for variation in college readiness, we show otherwise. While the top decile of valuations is indeed large (40 percent of consumption), nearly half of high school completers place zero value on access to college. Subsidies to college currently flow to those already best positioned to succeed and least sensitive to them. Even modestly targeted alternatives may therefore improve ...
The Income-Achievement Gap and Adult Outcome Inequality
This paper discusses various methods for assessing group differences in academic achievement using only the ordinal content of achievement test scores. Researchers and policymakers frequently draw conclusions about achievement differences between various populations using methods that rely on the cardinal comparability of test scores. This paper shows that such methods can lead to erroneous conclusions in an important application: measuring changes over time in the achievement gap between youth from high- and low-income households. Commonly-employed, cardinal methods suggest that this ...
Test Questions, Economic Outcomes, and Inequality
Standard achievement scales aggregate test questions without considering their relationship to economic outcomes. This paper uses question-level data to improve the measurement of achievement in two ways. First, the paper constructs alternative achievement scales by relating individual questions directly to school completion and labor market outcomes. Second, the paper leverages the question data to construct multiple such scales in order to correct for biases stemming from measurement error. These new achievement scales rank students differently than standard scales and typically yield ...