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
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.

Mobility Report Cards: The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility Raj Chetty, John N. Friedman, Emmanuel Saez, Nicholas Turner, Danny Yagan

Mobility Report Cards: The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility

Author: Raj Chetty, John N. Friedman, Emmanuel Saez, Nicholas Turner, Danny Yagan
Publisher: NBER
Date: 07/2017

We characterize intergenerational income mobility at each college in the United States using data for over 30 million college students from 1999-2013. We document four results. First, access to colleges varies greatly by parent income. For example, children whose parents are in the top 1% of the income distribution are 77 times more likely to attend an Ivy League college than those whose parents are in the bottom income quintile. Second, children from low- and high-income families have similar earnings outcomes conditional on the college they attend, indicating that low-income students are not mismatched at selective colleges. Third, rates of upward mobility – the fraction of students who come from families in the bottom income quintile and reach the top quintile – differ substantially across colleges because low-income access varies significantly across colleges with similar earnings outcomes. Rates of bottom-to-top quintile mobility are highest at certain mid-tier public universities, such as the City University of New York and California State colleges. Rates of upper-tail (bottom quintile to top 1%) mobility are highest at elite colleges, such as Ivy League universities. Fourth, the fraction of students from low-income families did not change substantially between 2000-2011 at elite private colleges, but fell sharply at colleges with the highest rates of bottom-to-top-quintile mobility. Although our descriptive analysis does not identify colleges' causal effects on students' outcomes, the publicly available statistics constructed here highlight colleges that deserve further study as potential engines of upward mobility.

State of the Union 2017: Education Sean F. Reardon, Erin M. Fahle

State of the Union 2017: Education

Author: Sean F. Reardon, Erin M. Fahle
Publisher: Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality
Date: 06/2017

Between 1990 and 2015, average academic performance improved for students of all racial and ethnic groups, but grew fastest among black and Hispanic students. As a result, white-black and white-Hispanic achievement gaps have declined by 15 to 25 percent. But achievement gaps remain large: Hispanic students lag almost two grade levels, and black students lag roughly two to two-and-a-half grade levels behind whites. Two nonschooling factors—persistent racial and ethnic disparities in family resources and segregation patterns— are fundamental determinants of unequal educational opportunity for minority students. 

Mobility Report Cards: The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility Raj Chetty, John N. Friedman, Emmanuel Saez, Nicholas Turner, Danny Yagan

Mobility Report Cards: The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility

Author: Raj Chetty, John N. Friedman, Emmanuel Saez, Nicholas Turner, Danny Yagan
Publisher:
Date: 01/2017

We characterize rates of intergenerational income mobility at each college in the United States using administrative data for over 30 million college students from 1999-2013. We document four results. First, access to colleges varies greatly by parent income. For example, children whose parents are in the top 1% of the income distribution are 77 times more likely to attend an Ivy League college than those whose parents are in the bottom income quintile. Second, children from low and high-income families have very similar earnings outcomes conditional on the college they attend, indicating that there is little mismatch of low socioeconomic status students to selective colleges. Third, upward mobility rates – measured, for instance, by the fraction of students who come from families in the bottom income quintile and reach the top quintile – vary substantially across colleges. Much of this variation is driven by differences in the fraction of students from low-income families across colleges whose students have similar earnings outcomes. Mid-tier public universities such as the City University of New York and California State colleges tend to have the highest rates of bottom-to-top quintile mobility. Elite private colleges, such as Ivy League universities, have the highest rates of upper-tail (e.g., bottom quintile to top 1%) mobility. Finally, between the 1980 and 1991 birth cohorts, the fraction of students from bottom-quintile families fell sharply at colleges with high rates of bottom-to-topquintile mobility, and did not change substantially at elite private institutions. Although our descriptive analysis does not identify colleges’ causal effects on students’ outcomes, the publicly available statistics constructed here highlight colleges that deserve further study as potential engines of upward 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
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
Karl Alexander's picture Karl Alexander John Dewey Professor Emeritus Sociology; Academy Professor in The Academy at JHU/KSAS
Johns Hopkins University

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Education - Other Research

Title Author Media
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.

New Evidence of Generational Progress for Mexican Americans Brian Duncan, Jeffrey Grogger, Ana Sofia Leon, Stephen J. Trejo

New Evidence of Generational Progress for Mexican Americans

Author: Brian Duncan, Jeffrey Grogger, Ana Sofia Leon, Stephen J. Trejo
Publisher: NBER
Date: 11/2017

U.S.-born Mexican Americans suffer a large schooling deficit relative to other Americans, and standard data sources suggest that this deficit does not shrink between the 2nd and later generations. Standard data sources lack information on grandparents’ countries of birth, however, which creates potentially serious issues for tracking the progress of later-generation Mexican Americans. Exploiting unique NLSY97 data that address these measurement issues, we find substantial educational progress between the 2nd and 3rd generations for a recent cohort of Mexican Americans. Such progress is obscured when we instead mimic the limitations inherent in standard data sources.

The Effect of Education and School Quality on Female Crime Javier Cano-Urbina, Lance Lochner

The Effect of Education and School Quality on Female Crime

Author: Javier Cano-Urbina, Lance Lochner
Publisher: NBER
Date: 11/2017

This paper estimates the effects of educational attainment and school quality on crime among American women. Using changes in compulsory schooling laws as instruments, we estimate significant effects of schooling attainment on the probability of incarceration using Census data from 1960-1980. Using data from the 1960-90 Uniform Crime Reports, we also estimate that increases in average schooling levels reduce arrest rates for violent and property crime but not white collar crime. Our results suggest small and mixed direct effects of school quality (as measured by pupil-teacher ratios, term length, and teacher salaries) on incarceration and arrests. Finally, we show that the effects of education on crime for women are unlikely to be due to changes in labor market opportunities and may be more related to changes in marital opportunities and family formation.

The Non-Market Benefits of Education and Ability James J. Heckman, John Eric Humphries, Gregory Veramendi

The Non-Market Benefits of Education and Ability

Author: James J. Heckman, John Eric Humphries, Gregory Veramendi
Publisher: NBER
Date: 10/2017

This paper analyzes the non-market benefits of education and ability. Using a dynamic model of educational choice we estimate returns to education that account for selection bias and sorting on gains. We investigate a range of non-market outcomes including incarceration, mental health, voter participation, trust, and participation in welfare. We find distinct patterns of returns that depend on the levels of schooling and ability. Unlike the monetary benefits of education, the benefits to education for many non-market outcomes are greater for low-ability persons. College graduation decreases welfare use, lowers depression, and raises self-esteem more for less-able individuals.

Virtual Classrooms: How Online College Courses Affect Student Success Eric P. Bettinger, Lindsay Fox, Susanna Loeb, Eric S. Taylor

Virtual Classrooms: How Online College Courses Affect Student Success

Author: Eric P. Bettinger, Lindsay Fox, Susanna Loeb, Eric S. Taylor
Publisher: American Economic Review
Date: 09/2017

Online college courses are a rapidly expanding feature of higher education, yet little research identifies their effects relative to traditional in-person classes. Using an instrumental variables approach, we find that taking a course online, instead of in-person, reduces student success and progress in college. Grades are lower both for the course taken online and in future courses. Students are less likely to remain enrolled at the university. These estimates are local average treatment effects for students with access to both online and in-person options; for other students, online classes may be the only option for accessing college-level courses.