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Schools, communities, and social policy
We present evidence of a positive relationship between school starting age and children’s cognitive development from age 6 to 18 using a fuzzy regression discontinuity design and large-scale population-level birth and school data from the state of Florida. We estimate effects of being old for grade (being born in September versus August) that are remarkably stable – always around 0.2 SD difference in test scores – across a wide range of heterogeneous groups, based on maternal education, poverty at birth, race/ethnicity, birth weight, gestational age, and school quality. While the September-August difference in kindergarten readiness is dramatically different by subgroup, by the time students take their first exams, the heterogeneity in estimated effects on test scores effectively disappears. We do, however, find significant heterogeneity in other outcome measures such as disability status and middle and high school course selections. We also document substantial variation in compensatory behaviors targeted towards young for grade children. While the more affluent families tend to redshirt their children, young for grade children from less affluent families are more likely to be retained in grades prior to testing. School district practices regarding retention and redshirting are correlated with improved out- comes for the groups less likely to use those remediation approaches (i.e., retention in the case of more-affluent families and redshirting in the case of less-affluent families.) Finally, we find that very few school policies or practices mitigate the test score advantage of September born children.
The world is experiencing the second largest refugee crisis in a century, and one of the major points of contention involves the possible adverse effects of incoming refugees on host communities. We examine the effects of a large refugee influx into Florida public schools following the Haitian earthquake of 2010 using unique matched birth and schooling records. We find precise zero estimated effects of refugees on the educational outcomes of incumbent students in the year of the earthquake or in the two years that follow, regardless of the socioeconomic status, grade level, ethnicity, or birthplace of incumbent students.
Citation: David Figlio, Umut Özek (2017). Unwelcome Guests? The Effects of Refugees on the Educational Outcomes of Incumbent Students. CALDER Working Paper No. 180
We use remarkable population-level administrative education and birth records from Florida to study the role of Long-Term Orientation on the educational attainment of immigrant students living in the US. Controlling for the quality of schools and individual characteristics, students from countries with long term oriented attitudes perform better than students from cultures that do not emphasize the importance of delayed gratification. These students perform better in third grade reading and math tests, have larger test score gains over time, have fewer absences and disciplinary incidents, are less likely to repeat grades, and are more likely to graduate from high school in four years. Also, they are more likely to enroll in advanced high school courses, especially in scientific subjects. Parents from long term oriented cultures are more likely to secure better educational opportunities for their children. A larger fraction of immigrants speaking the same language in the school amplifies the effect of Long-Term Orientation on educational performance. We validate these results using a sample of immigrant students living in 37 different countries.
We make use of a new data source – matched birth records and longitudinal student records in Florida – to study the degree to which student outcomes differ across successive immigrant generations. Specifically, we investigate whether first, second, and third generation Asian and Hispanic immigrants in Florida perform differently on reading and mathematics tests, and whether they are differentially likely to get into serious trouble in school, to be truant from school, to graduate from high school, or to be ready for college upon high school graduation. We find evidence suggesting that early-arriving first generation immigrants perform better than do second generation immigrants, and second generation immigrants perform better than third generation immigrants. Among first generation immigrants, the earlier the arrival, the better the students tend to perform. These patterns of findings hold for both Asian and Hispanic students, and suggest a general pattern of successively reduced achievement – beyond a transitional period for recent immigrants – in the generations following the generation that immigrated to the United States.
Citation: Umut Özek, David Figlio (2016). Cross-Generational Differences in Educational Outcomes in the Second Great Wave of Immigration. CALDER Working Paper No. 162
U.S. women graduate high school at higher rates than U.S. men, but the female-male educational advantage is larger, and has increased by more, among black and low-SES students than among white and high-SES students. We explore why boys fare worse than girls—both behaviorally and educationally— by exploiting birth certificates matched to health, disciplinary, academic, and high school graduation records for over one million children born in Florida between 1992 and 2002. We account for unobserved family heterogeneity by contrasting the outcomes of opposite-sex siblings linked to birth mothers by administrative records. Relative to their sisters, boys born to low-education and unmarried mothers, raised in low-income neighborhoods, and enrolled at poor-quality public schools have a higher incidence of absences and behavioral problems throughout elementary and middle school, exhibit higher rates of behavioral and cognitive disability, perform worse on standardized tests, and are less likely to graduate from high school. We argue that the family disadvantage gradient in the gender gap is a causal effect of the post-natal environment: family disadvantage has no relationship with the sibling gender gap in neonatal health. Although family disadvantage is strongly correlated with school and neighborhood quality, the SES gradient in the sibling gender gap is almost as large within schools and neighborhoods as between them. A surprising implication of these findings is that, relative to white children, black boys fare worse than their sisters in significant part because black children— both boys and girls—are raised in more disadvantaged family environments.
Citation: David Figlio, Jeffrey Roth, Kryzsztof Karbownik (2016). Family Disadvantage and the Gender Gap in Behavioral and Educational Outcomes. CALDER Working Paper No. 161
Millions of tons of hazardous wastes have been produced in the United States in the last 60 years which have been dispersed into the air, into water, and on and under the ground. Using new population-level data that follows cohorts of children born in the state of Florida between 1994 and 2002, this paper examines the short and long-term effects of prenatal exposure to environmental toxicants on children living within two miles of a Superfund site, toxic waste sites identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as being particularly severe. We compare siblings living within two miles from a Superfund site at birth where at least one sibling was conceived before or during cleanup of the site, and the other(s) was conceived after the site cleanup was completed using a family fixed effects model. Children conceived to mothers living within 2 miles of a Superfund site before it was cleaned are 7.4 percentage points more likely to repeat a grade, have 0.06 of a standard deviation lower test scores, and are 6.6 percentage points more likely to be suspended from school than their siblings who were conceived after the site was cleaned. Children conceived to mothers living within one mile of a Superfund site before it was cleaned are 10 percentage points more likely to be diagnosed with a cognitive disability than their later born siblings as well. These results tend to be larger and are more statistically significant than the estimated effects of proximity to a Superfund site on birth outcomes. This study suggests that the cleanup of severe toxic waste sites has significant positive effects on a variety of long-term cognitive and developmental outcomes for children.
Citation: Claudia Persico, David Figlio, Jeffrey Roth (2016). Inequality Before Birth: The Developmental Consequences of Environmental Toxicants. CALDER Working Paper No. 160
We make use of a new data resource, merged birth and school records for all children born in Florida from 1992 to 2002, to study the effects of birth weight on cognitive development from kindergarten through schooling. Using twin fixed effects models, we find that the effects of birth weight on cognitive development are essentially constant through the school career; that these effects are very similar across a wide range of family backgrounds; and that they are invariant to measures of school quality. We conclude that the effects of poor neonatal health on adult outcomes are therefore set very early.
Citation: David Figlio, Jonathan Guryan, Kryzsztof Karbownik, Jeffrey Roth (2013). The Effects of Poor Neonatal Health on Children’s Cognitive Development. CALDER Working Paper No. 95
This paper explores the relative effects of school and neighborhood characteristics on student achievement in Texas. Previous empirical studies have estimated one of these effects in the absence of controls for the other, leading to potentially misleading results. School variables are more robust and explain a greater degree of the variance in test scores than neighborhood characteristics. Neighborhood level variables, as a group, are statistically significant even in the presence of school variables. The particular pattern of effects varies by the manner in which the school context was controlled, by poverty status, move status, and location in the conditional achievement distribution. But neighborhood always mattered. Even if neighborhood conditions are less robust than school context effects, concern about neighborhood conditions is still justified. Reducing the concentration of poverty and economic segregation may be the easiest way to decrease the "savage inequalities" that exist between schools.
Citation: Paul Jargowsky, Mohamed El Komi (2009). Before or After the Bell?: School Context and Neighborhood Effects on Student Achievement. CALDER Working Paper No. 28