Education

  • Sean Reardon

Leader: Sean Reardon

The purpose of the Education RG is to examine trends in the extent to which educational access and achievement are related to poverty and family background. The scholars working within this RG are examining state-level differences in the effects of social origins, uncovering the causes of the recent rise in the socioeconomic achievement gap, uncovering the causes of the yet more recent turnaround in this rise (among kindergarten children), and examining the ways in which high-achieving children from poor backgrounds can be induced to go to college. The following is a sampling of relevant CPI projects.

Reducing the race gap in test scores: How can the black-white gap in achievement test scores be eliminated? The new Stanford Education Data Archive (SEDA) will provide the most systematic evidence to date on the capacity of school-district policies to reduce the gap.

Colleges and rising income inequality: Are colleges delivering upward mobility for those raised in poverty? The new “Mobility Report Card” will provide unusually detailed data on this fundamental question.

Poverty and schooling on reservations: The noted ethnographer Martin Sánchez-Jankowski is examining how education on reservations can be reformed to reduce dropout, poverty, and suicide. 

Education - CPI Research

Title Author Media
Inequality of Educational Opportunity? Schools as Mediators of the Intergenerational Transmission of Income Jesse Rothstein

Inequality of Educational Opportunity? Schools as Mediators of the Intergenerational Transmission of Income

Author: Jesse Rothstein
Publisher: NBER
Date: 04/2018

Chetty et al. (2014b) show that children from low-income families achieve higher adult incomes, relative to those from higher income families, in some commuting zones (CZs) than in others. I investigate whether children’s educational outcomes help to explain the between-CZ differences. I find little evidence that the quality of schools is a key mechanism driving variation in intergenerational mobility. While CZs with stronger intergenerational income transmission have somewhat stronger transmission of parental income to children’s educational attainment and achievement, on average, neither can explain a large share of the between-CZ variation. Marriage patterns explain two-fifths of the variation in income transmission, human capital accumulation and returns to human capital each explain only one-ninth, and the remainder of the variation (about one-third) reflects differences in earnings between children from high- and low-income families that are not mediated by human capital. This points to job networks and the structure of local labor and marriage markets, rather than the education system, as likely factors influencing intergenerational economic mobility.

More than Just a Nudge: Supporting Kindergarten Parents with Differentiated and Personalized Text-Messages Christopher J. Doss, Erin M. Fahle, Susanna Loeb, Benjamin N. York

More than Just a Nudge: Supporting Kindergarten Parents with Differentiated and Personalized Text-Messages

Author: Christopher J. Doss, Erin M. Fahle, Susanna Loeb, Benjamin N. York
Publisher: NBER
Date: 03/2018

Recent studies show that texting-based interventions can produce educational benefits in children across a range of ages. We study effects of a text-based program for parents of kindergarten children, distinguishing a general program from one adding differentiation and personalization based on each child’s developmental level. Children in the differentiated and personalized program were 63 percent more likely to read at a higher level (p<0.001) compared to the general group; and their parents reported engaging more in literacy activities. Effects were driven by children further from average levels of baseline development indicating that the effects likely stemmed from text content.

State of the Union 2018: Education Erin M. Fahle, Sean F. Reardon

State of the Union 2018: Education

Author: Erin M. Fahle, Sean F. Reardon
Publisher: Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality
Date: 03/2018

Despite common beliefs to the contrary, male students do not consistently outperform female students in mathematics. On average, males have a negligible lead in math in fourth grade, but that lead essentially disappears by eighth grade. This pattern shifts in high school. By age 17, there is a meaningful male advantage in math, approximately one-third of a grade level in 2012. In reading, female students consistently outperform male students from fourth grade through high school. In 2015, the male-female test score gap in fourth-grade reading was about half of a grade level, and in eighth grade it was even larger, at four-fifths of a grade level. At age 17, reading gaps persist at just over half a grade level. Although women attend college and graduate from college at higher rates than men, women are underrepresented in STEM majors and earn fewer STEM degrees. 

Who Becomes an Inventor in America? The Importance of Exposure to Innovation Alexander M. Bell, Raj Chetty, Xavier Jaravel, Neviana Petkova, John Van Reenen

Who Becomes an Inventor in America? The Importance of Exposure to Innovation

Author: Alexander M. Bell, Raj Chetty, Xavier Jaravel, Neviana Petkova, John Van Reenen
Publisher: NBER
Date: 11/2017

We characterize the factors that determine who becomes an inventor in America by using de-identified data on 1.2 million inventors from patent records linked to tax records. We establish three sets of results. First, children from high-income (top 1%) families are ten times as likely to become inventors as those from below-median income families. There are similarly large gaps by race and gender. Differences in innate ability, as measured by test scores in early childhood, explain relatively little of these gaps. Second, exposure to innovation during childhood has significant causal effects on children's propensities to become inventors. Growing up in a neighborhood or family with a high innovation rate in a specific technology class leads to a higher probability of patenting in exactly the same technology class. These exposure effects are gender-specific: girls are more likely to become inventors in a particular technology class if they grow up in an area with more female inventors in that technology class. Third, the financial returns to inventions are extremely skewed and highly correlated with their scientific impact, as measured by citations. Consistent with the importance of exposure effects and contrary to standard models of career selection, women and disadvantaged youth are as under-represented among high-impact inventors as they are among inventors as a whole. We develop a simple model of inventors' careers that matches these empirical results. The model implies that increasing exposure to innovation in childhood may have larger impacts on innovation than increasing the financial incentives to innovate, for instance by cutting tax rates. In particular, there are many “lost Einsteins” — individuals who would have had highly impactful inventions had they been exposed to innovation.

Increasing Inequality in Parent Incomes and Children’s Schooling Greg J. Duncan, Ariel Kalil, Kathleen M. Ziol-Guest

Increasing Inequality in Parent Incomes and Children’s Schooling

Author: Greg J. Duncan, Ariel Kalil, Kathleen M. Ziol-Guest
Publisher: Demography
Date: 08/2017

Income inequality and the achievement test score gap between high- and low-income children increased dramatically in the United States beginning in the 1970s. This article investigates the demographic (family income, mother’s education, family size, two-parent family structure, and age of mother at birth) underpinnings of the growing income-based gap in schooling using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Across 31 cohorts, we find that increases in the income gap between high- and low-income children account for approximately three-quarters of the increasing gap in completed schooling, one-half of the gap in college attendance, and one-fifth of the gap in college graduation. We find no consistent evidence of increases in the estimated associations between parental income and children’s completed schooling. Increasing gaps in the two-parent family structures of high- and low-income families accounted for relatively little of the schooling gap because our estimates of the (regression-adjusted) associations between family structure and schooling were surprisingly small for much of our accounting period. On the other hand, increasing gaps in mother’s age at the time of birth accounts for a substantial portion of the increasing schooling gap: mother’s age is consistently predictive of children’s completed schooling, and the maternal age gap for children born into low- and high-income families increased considerably over the period.

education - CPI Affiliates

Anna Chmielewski's picture Anna Chmielewski Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership and Policy
University of Toronto
Carol Dweck's picture Carol Dweck Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology
Stanford University
Jeanne Brooks-Gunn's picture Jeanne Brooks-Gunn Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor of Child and Parent Development Education; Professor of Pediatrics, College of Physicians & Surgeons; Co-director, National Center for Children & Families
Teachers College, Columbia University
Eric Grodsky's picture Eric Grodsky Professor of Sociology; Co-Director, Madison Education Partnership
University of Wisconsin-Madison
James J. Heckman's picture James J. Heckman Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, Director, Center for the Economics of Human Development
The University of Chicago

Pages

Education - Other Research

Title Author Media
The Segregation of Opportunity: Social and Financial Resources in the Educational Contexts of Lower- and Higher-Income Children, 1990–2014 Ann Owens, Kendra Bischoff

The Segregation of Opportunity: Social and Financial Resources in the Educational Contexts of Lower- and Higher-Income Children, 1990–2014

Author: Ann Owens, Kendra Bischoff
Publisher: Demography
Date: 09/2019

This article provides a rich longitudinal portrait of the financial and social resources available in the school districts of high- and low-income students in the United States from 1990 to 2014. Combining multiple publicly available data sources for most school districts in the United States, we document levels and gaps in school district financial resources—total per-pupil expenditures—and social resources—local rates of adult educational attainment, family structure, and adult unemployment—available to the average public school student at a variety of income levels over time. In addition to using eligibility for the National School Lunch Program as a blunt measure of student income, we estimate resource inequalities between income deciles to analyze resource gaps between affluent and poor children. We then examine the relationship between income segregation and resource gaps between the school districts of high- and low-income children. In previous work, the social context of schooling has been a theoretical but unmeasured mechanism through which income segregation may operate to create unequal opportunities for children. Our results show large and, in some cases, growing social resource gaps in the districts of high- and low-income students nationally and provide evidence that these gaps are exacerbated by income segregation. Conversely, per-pupil funding became more compensatory between high- and low-income students’ school districts over this period, especially in highly segregated states. However, there are early signs of reversal in this trend. The results provide evidence that school finance reforms have been somewhat effective in reducing the consequences of income segregation on funding inequities, while inequalities in the social context of schooling continue to grow.

New Destinations and the Early Childhood Education of Mexican-Origin Children Elizabeth Ackert, Robert Crosnoe, Tama Leventhal

New Destinations and the Early Childhood Education of Mexican-Origin Children

Author: Elizabeth Ackert, Robert Crosnoe, Tama Leventhal
Publisher: Demography
Date: 09/2019

This study examined differences in exposure to early childhood education among Mexican-origin children across Latino/a destinations. Early childhood educational enrollment patterns, which are highly sensitive to community resources and foundational components of long-term educational inequalities, can offer a valuable window into how destinations may be shaping incorporation among Mexican-origin families. Integrating data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort with county-level data from the decennial census, multilevel logistic regression models revealed that Mexican-origin, black, and white children had lower odds of enrollment in early childhood education programs if they lived in new Latino/a destinations versus established destinations. The negative association between new destinations and early childhood education enrollment persisted despite controls for household selectivity, state and local early childhood education contexts, Latino/a educational attainment, Latino-white residential segregation, and immigration enforcement agreements. Within the Mexican-origin subgroup, the enrollment gap between new and established destinations was widest among the least-acculturated families, as measured by parental nativity, duration of residence, citizenship status, and English proficiency. These findings highlight how both place and acculturation stratify outcomes within the large and growing Mexican-origin subset of the Latino/a population.

Why Does Parental Divorce Lower Children’s Educational Attainment? A Causal Mediation Analysis Jennie E. Brand, Ravaris Moore, Xi Song, Yu Xie

Why Does Parental Divorce Lower Children’s Educational Attainment? A Causal Mediation Analysis

Author: Jennie E. Brand, Ravaris Moore, Xi Song, Yu Xie
Publisher: Sociological Science
Date: 04/2019

Mechanisms explaining the negative effects of parental divorce on children’s attainment have long been conjectured and assessed. Yet few studies of parental divorce have carefully attended to the assumptions and methods necessary to estimate causal mediation effects. Applying a causal framework to linked U.S. panel data, we assess the degree to which parental divorce limits children’s education among whites and nonwhites and whether observed lower levels of educational attainment are explained by postdivorce family conditions and children’s skills. Our analyses yield three key findings. First, the negative effect of divorce on educational attainment, particularly college, is substantial for white children; by contrast, divorce does not lower the educational attainment of nonwhite children. Second, declines in family income explain as much as one- to two-thirds of the negative effect of parental divorce on white children’s education. Family instability also helps explain the effect, particularly when divorce occurs in early childhood. Children’s psychosocial skills explain about one-fifth of the effect, whereas children’s cognitive skills play a minimal role. Third, among nonwhites, the minimal total effect on education is explained by the offsetting influence of postdivorce declines in family income and stability alongside increases in children’s psychosocial and cognitive skills.

The Production of Inequalities within Families and Across Generations: The Intergenerational Effects of Birth Order and Family Size on Educational Attainment Kieron Barclay, Torkild Lyngstad, Dalton Conley

The Production of Inequalities within Families and Across Generations: The Intergenerational Effects of Birth Order and Family Size on Educational Attainment

Author: Kieron Barclay, Torkild Lyngstad, Dalton Conley
Publisher: NBER
Date: 04/2018

There has long been interest in the extent to which effects of social stratification extend and persist across generations. We take a novel approach to this question by asking whether birth order and sibling group size in the parental generation influences the educational attainment of their children. To address this question we use Swedish population data on cohorts born 1960-1982. To study the effects of parental birth order and family size we apply a cousin fixed effects design and exploit information on twin births in the parents generation. Relative to having a first-born mother, having a second-born or fifth-born mother is associated with educational attainment at age 30 being 4% and 8% of a standard deviation lower, respectively. After adjusting for attained parental education and social class, the parental birth order effect is heavily attenuated. Nevertheless, we do find that children who share the same birth order and gender as their parents attain slightly more education, and this is particularly pronounced when the parents have higher levels of education themselves. We do not find clear or consistent evidence for parental sibling group size effects. Overall our results suggest that birth order and family size effects operate through a Markovian process of transmission.

The Educational Backgrounds of American Business and Government Leaders: Inter-Industry Variation in Recruitment from Elite Colleges and Graduate Programs Steven Brint, Sarah R. K. Yoshikawa

The Educational Backgrounds of American Business and Government Leaders: Inter-Industry Variation in Recruitment from Elite Colleges and Graduate Programs

Author: Steven Brint, Sarah R. K. Yoshikawa
Publisher: Social Forces
Date: 12/2017

The paper provides new empirical evidence on the educational backgrounds of US business and government leaders. Analyzing a sample of 3,990 senior executives drawn from 15 sectors, including government, we find significant industry variation. Industries whose products depend primarily on the manipulation of symbolic media were the most likely to recruit from elite colleges. By contrast, industries involved in the transformation of the material world recruited less often from elite colleges, and this was particularly true for industries that employed comparatively few workers with advanced degrees. We find a relatively low level of association between elite undergraduate origins and executive positions in economy and state but greater proportional concentration by graduate business or law school attended. We discuss the different selection criteria used by elite colleges looking for outstanding students and corporations looking for outstanding executives, as well as additional layers of affinity that may lie behind industry differences in recruitment to executive positions.