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
Expanding and Diversifying the Pool of Undergraduates who Study Economics: Insights from a New Introductory Course at Harvard Amanda Bayer, Gregory Bruich, Raj Chetty, Andrew Housiaux

Expanding and Diversifying the Pool of Undergraduates who Study Economics: Insights from a New Introductory Course at Harvard

Author: Amanda Bayer, Gregory Bruich, Raj Chetty, Andrew Housiaux
Publisher: National Bureau of Economic Research
Date: 04/2020

There is widespread concern that economics does not attract as broad or diverse a pool of talent as it could. For example, less than one-third of undergraduates who receive degrees in economics are women, significantly lower than in math or statistics. This article presents a case study of a new introductory undergraduate course at Harvard, “Using Big Data to Solve Economic and Social Problems,” that enrolled 400 students, achieved nearly a 50-50 gender balance, and was among the highest-rated courses in the college. We first summarize the course’s content and pedagogical approach. We then illustrate how this approach differs from that taken in traditional courses by showing how canonical topics – income inequality, tax incidence, and adverse selection – are taught differently. Then, drawing upon students’ comments and prior research on effective teaching practices, we identify elements of the course’s approach that appear to underlie its success: connecting the material to students’ own experiences; teaching skills that have social and career value; and engaging students in scientific investigation of real-world problems. We conclude by discussing how these ideas for improving instruction in economics could be applied in other courses and tested empirically in future research.

Raising the Stakes: Inequality and Testing in the Russian Education System Michelle Jackson, Tatiana Khavenson, Tatiana Chirkina

Raising the Stakes: Inequality and Testing in the Russian Education System

Author: Michelle Jackson, Tatiana Khavenson, Tatiana Chirkina
Publisher: Social Forces
Date: 10/2019

Sociologists have argued that high-stakes tests open the door to high levels of educational inequality at transition points: in a high-stakes testing regime, parents and students are able to focus all energy and resources on test preparation, thus enhancing pre-existing inequalities in academic performance. But arguments about a special role for high-stakes tests are often prosecuted without explicit comparisons to other types of tests and assessments, usually because information on other tests is not available. In this article, we analyze a unique dataset on a contemporary cohort of Russian students, for whom we have PISA and TIMSS scores, low-stakes test scores, and high-stakes test scores. We compare the role each test plays in mediating socioeconomic background inequalities at the important transitions in the Russian educational system: the transition to upper secondary education and the transition to university. We find evidence in favor of a special role for the high-stakes test at the transition to university, but we also find evidence that gives cause to question the standard assumption that high-stakes tests should be a primary focus for those concerned about inequality of educational opportunity.

Unpacking the Drivers of Racial Disparities in School Suspension and Expulsion Jayanti Owens, Sara S. McLanahan

Unpacking the Drivers of Racial Disparities in School Suspension and Expulsion

Author: Jayanti Owens, Sara S. McLanahan
Publisher: Social Forces
Date: 06/2019

School suspension and expulsion are important forms of punishment that disproportionately affect Black students, with long-term consequences for educational attainment and other indicators of wellbeing. Prior research identifies three mechanisms that help account for racial disparities in suspension and expulsion: between-school sorting, differences in student behaviors, and differences in the treatment and support of students with similar behaviors. We extend this literature by (1) comparing the contributions of these three mechanisms in a single study, (2) assessing behavior and school composition when children enter kindergarten and before most are exposed to school discipline, and (3) using both teacher and parent reports of student behaviors. Decomposition analyses reveal that differential treatment and support account for 46 percent of the Black/White gap in suspension/expulsion, while between-school sorting and differences in behavior account for 21 percent and 9 percent of the gap respectively. Results are similar for boys and girls and robust to the use of school fixed effects and measures of school composition and student behavior at ages 5 and 9. Theoretically, our findings highlight differential treatment/support after children enter school as an important but understudied mechanism in the early criminalization of Black students.

State of the Union 2019: Student Debt Susan Dynarski

State of the Union 2019: Student Debt

Author: Susan Dynarski
Publisher: Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality
Date: 06/2019
  • Relative to Generation X, millennials took out more student loans, took out larger student loans, and defaulted more frequently. 
  • Defaults increased because millennials faced higher tuition payments, took out larger loans to meet those higher costs, turned to for-profit schools that don’t offer any returns, and entered a labor market in the throes of recession.
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.

education - CPI Affiliates

Sean Reardon's picture Sean Reardon Education Research Group Leader, Life Course Research Group Leader, Professor of Poverty and Inequality
Stanford University
David Harding's picture David Harding Incarceration Research Group Leader, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of California, Berkeley
Greg J. Duncan's picture Greg J. Duncan Life Course Research Group Leader, Distinguished Professor of Education
University of California, Irvine
Richard Arum's picture Richard Arum Dean, School of Education; Senior Academic Advisor, Education Research Program
University of California, Irvine
Rucker C. Johnson's picture Rucker C. Johnson Associate Professor at Goldman School of Public Policy
University of California, Berkeley

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Education - Other Research

Title Author Media
Measuring the Effect of Student Loans on College Persistence David Card, Alex Solis

Measuring the Effect of Student Loans on College Persistence

Author: David Card, Alex Solis
Publisher: National Bureau of Economic Research
Date: 05/2020

Governments around the world use grant and loan programs to ease the financial constraints that contribute to socioeconomic gaps in college completion. A growing body of research assesses the impact of grants; less is known about how loan programs affect persistence and degree completion. We use detailed administrative data from Chile to provide rigorous regression-discontinuity-based evidence on the impacts of loan eligibility for university students who retake the national admission test after their first year of studies. Those who score above a certain threshold become eligible for loans covering around 85% of tuition costs for the duration of their program. We find that access to loans increases the fraction who return to university for a second year by 20 percentage points, with two-thirds of the effect arising from a reduction in transfers to vocational colleges and one-third from a decline in the share who stop post-secondary schooling altogether. The longer-run impacts are smaller but remain highly significant, with a 12 percentage point impact on the fraction of marginally eligible retakers who complete a bachelor's degree.

Educational Variations in Cohort Trends in the Black-White Earnings Gap Among Men: Evidence From Administrative Earnings Data Siwei Cheng, Christopher R. Tamborini, ChangHwan Kim, Arthur Sakamoto

Educational Variations in Cohort Trends in the Black-White Earnings Gap Among Men: Evidence From Administrative Earnings Data

Author: Siwei Cheng, Christopher R. Tamborini, ChangHwan Kim, Arthur Sakamoto
Publisher: Demography
Date: 12/2019

Despite efforts to improve the labor market situation of African Americans, the racial earnings gap has endured in the United States. Most prior studies on racial inequality have considered its cross-sectional or period patterns. This study adopts a demographic perspective to examine the evolution of earnings trajectories among white and black men across cohorts in the United States. Using more than 40 years of longitudinal earnings records from the U.S. Social Security Administration matched to the Survey of Income and Program Participation, our analyses reveal that the cohort trends in the racial earnings gap follow quite different patterns by education. Race continues to be a salient dimension of economic inequality over the life course and across cohorts, particularly at the top and the bottom of the educational distribution. Although the narrowing of the racial gap among high school graduates is in itself a positive development, it unfortunately derives primarily from the deteriorating economic position for whites without a college degree rather than an improvement in economic standing of their black counterparts.

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.