Academic outcomes reflect only in part the academic experiences of students; schools do not operate in a vacuum. Many social, political, and governmental forces and institutions interact with the students our schools are educating. Student academic experiences are shaped by welfare reform, housing policy and healthcare provision and a wide array of social programs and changes. How does the experience of students outside of school shape student performance? How do changes in governmental programs influence schools and education? How can these be better coordinated to improve student outcomes?

Select Publications

Testing the Quantity-Quality Model of Fertility: Linearity, Marginal Effects, and Total Effects (2010)

Magne Mostad and Matthew Wiswall
Funded by the Norwegian Research Council

The authors re-examine the recent empirical evidence suggesting no tradeoff between child quantity and quality. Motivated by the theoretical ambiguity about the magnitude and sign of the marginal effects on child quality of additional siblings, this work departs from previous empirical studies in allowing an unrestricted relationship between family size and child outcome. The authors find that the conclusion of no family size effect is an artifact of a linear specification in family size, masking substantial marginal family size effects. This is true when the authors perform OLS estimation with controls for confounding characteristics like birth order, or instrument family size with twin births.

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What Linear Estimates Miss: Re-Examining the Effects of Family Income on Child Outcomes (2010)

Katrine V. Loken, Magne Modstad and Matthew Wiswall
Funded by the Norwegian Research Council

This paper uses a rich Norwegian dataset to re-examine the causal relationship between family income and child outcomes. Motivated by theoretical predictions and OLS results that suggest a nonlinear relationship, the authors depart from previous studies in allowing the marginal e ects on children's outcomes of an increase in family income to vary across the income distribution. Their nonlinear IV and fixed-eff ect estimates show an increasing, concave relationship between family income and children's educational attainment and IQ. The linear estimates, however, suggest small, if any, e ect of family income, because they assign little weight to the large marginal effects at the lower part of the income distribution.


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Do Public Schools Disadvantage Students Living in Public Housing? (2009)

Amy Ellen Schwartz, Brian J. McCabe, Ingrid Gould Ellen and Colin Chellman
IESP Working Paper #09-08

This paper examines the characteristics of elementary and middle schools attended by students living in public housing developments in New York City. Using the proportion of public housing students attending each elementary and middle school as our weight, the authors calculate the weighted average of school characteristics to describe the typical school attended by students living in public housing. Then, the authors compare these characteristics to those of the typical school attended by other students throughout the city in an effort to assess whether public schools systematically disadvantage students in public housing in New York City.

On one hand, they find no large differences between the resources of the schools attended by students living in public housing and the schools attended by their peers living elsewhere in the city; on the other hand, they find significant differences in student characteristics and outcomes. The typical school attended by public housing students has higher poverty rates and lower average performance on standardized exams than the schools attended by others. These school differences, however, fail to fully explain the performance disparities: the authors find that students living in public housing score lower, on average, on standardized tests than their schoolmates living elsewhere -- even though they attend the same school. These results point to a need for more nuanced analyses of policies and practices in schools, as well as the outside-of-school factors that shape educational success, to identify and address the needs of students in public housing.


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From Front Yards to School Yards: Linking Housing Policy and School Reform (2009)

Amy Ellen Schwartz, Leanna Stiefel and Abigail Conover Carlton
IESP Working Paper #09-07

Housing and education share strong ties in the United States. This relationship is shaped, in large part, by mobility. Students move to new schools, homes and neighborhoods as a result of planned and unplanned family relocations. Taxpayers move from one school district to another in a nation where school quality is closely tied to the district in which a family resides. Teachers weigh factors such as location, pay, and long-term career opportunities as they decide where to work and when to move within or between school districts.

Despite the strong relationship between housing and education, policies that recognize and support this relationship are relatively rare. This paper explores the mechanisms by which housing and education are related. The authors focus particular attention on disadvantaged students in urban areas, as these students often face a unique set of challenges that set them apart from their more advantaged and/or non-urban counterparts. First, they explore the ways in which a child's housing unit, his neighborhood, and the political economy of public schools might shape his educational outcome. Then the authors turn to a discussion of the implications of these mechanisms for education and housing policy. Herein, they highlight recent efforts to strengthen the ties between education and housing policy and discuss how the lessons learned from these efforts might be brought to bear as policymakers consider new education and housing initiatives. 


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Women, the Labor Market, and the Declining Relative Quality of Teachers (2004)

Sean P. Corcoran, William N. Evans and Robert M. Schwab
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. 23(3): 449-470
School officials and policymakers have grown increasingly concerned about their ability to attract and retain talented teachers. A number of authors have shown that in recent years the brightest students-at least those with the highest verbal and math scores on standardized tests-are less likely to enter teaching. In addition, it is frequently claimed that the ability of schools to attract these top students has been steadily declining for years. There is, however, surprisingly little evidence measuring the extent to which this popular proposition is true.

We have good reason to suspect that the quality of those entering teaching has fallen over time. Teaching has for years remained a predominately female profession; at the same time, the employment opportunities for talented women outside teaching have soared. In this paper, we combine data from five longitudinal surveys of high school graduates spanning the classes of 1957 to 1992 to examine how the propensity for talented women to enter teaching has changed over time. While the quality of the average new female teacher has fallen only slightly over this period, the likelihood that a female from the top of her high school class will eventually enter teaching has fallen dramatically.


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Schools and Community Economic Development

co-Principal Investigators: Ingrid Gould Ellen and Amy Ellen Schwartz

Schools as institutions have impacts on the neighborhoods in which they are located, not least of which is the consistent flow of public funds schools represent to a neighborhood. What are the effects of these large influxes of resources?