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Parents and communities
School districts across the U.S. have adopted funding policies designed to distribute resources more equitably across schools. However, schools are also increasing external fundraising efforts to supplement district budget allocations. We document the interaction between funding policies and fundraising efforts in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). We find that adoption of a weighted-student funding policy successfully reallocated more dollars to schools with high shares of students eligible for free/reduced-price (FRL) lunch, creating a policy-induced per-pupil expenditure gap. Further, almost all schools raised external funds over the study period with most dollars raised concentrated in schools serving relatively affluent populations. We estimate that external fundraising offset the policy-induced per- pupil expenditure gap between schools enrolling the lowest and highest shares of FRL-eligible students by 26-39 percent. Other districts have attempted to reallocate fundraised dollars to all schools; such a policy in CPS would have little impact on most schools’ budgets.
The recent spike in book challenges has put school libraries at the center of heated political debates. I investigate the relationship between local politics and school library collections using data on books with controversial content in 6,631 public school libraries. Libraries in conservative areas have fewer titles with LGBTQ+, race/racism, or abortion content and more Christian fiction and discontinued Dr. Seuss titles. This is true even though most libraries have at least some controversial content. I also find that state laws that restrict curricular content are negatively related to some kinds of controversial books. Finally, I present descriptive short-term evidence that book challenges in the 2021-22 school year have had “chilling effects” on the acquisition of new LGBTQ+ titles.
Public schools are currently a source of major political conflict, specifically with regard to issues related to LGBT representation in the curriculum. We report on a large nationally representative survey of American households focusing on their views on what LGBT topics are and should be taught, and what LGBT-themed books should be assigned and available. We report results overall and broken down by demographic, partisan, and geographic variables. We find that Americans report that they largely do not know what topics are being taught in schools, but they do not think LGBT topics are being taught to elementary children. There is widespread opposition to teaching about LGBT issues in elementary school, with more mixed support in high school. Voters are much more opposed to LGBT-themed books being assigned to students than available to them. There are very large splits in attitudes toward LGBT issues in schools, especially along political and religious lines and across states and counties based on partisan lean. We discuss implications of these findings for education policy and urge greater understanding of Americans' views about controversial topics in the curriculum.
Partisanship influenced learning modality after the pandemic’s onset, but it is unknown whether partisanship predicted other aspects of educational operations. We study the role of partisanship, race, markets, and public health in predicting a range of operations—from modality to family engagement to social-emotional support to teacher PD—throughout 2020-21 in the context of Virginia. Districts’ partisan makeup and racial composition were similarly predictive of in-person offerings throughout 2020-21 but partisanship was less predictive over time. District characteristics explained limited variation in other aspects of operations, though districts with larger private school sectors provided more supports. Results emphasize the role of partisanship, race, and markets in reopening but also suggest school operational decisions were less politicized than choice of modality.
Little is known about the impact of peer personality on human capital formation. This paper studies the peer effect of persistence, a personality trait that reflects perseverance when facing challenges and setbacks, on student achievement. Exploiting student-classroom random assignments in middle schools in China, I find having more persistent peers improves in student achievement. The effects are prominent in students with high and medium baseline persistence. I find three mechanisms: (i) students’ own persistence and self-disciplined behaviors increase; (ii) teachers become more responsible/patient and spend more time on teaching preparation; and (iii) endogenous friendship networks consisting of more academically successful peers and fewer disruptive peers develop, particularly among students who share with similar levels of persistence.
Public policies often target individuals but within-family externalities of such interventions are understudied. Using a regression discontinuity design, we document how a third grade retention policy affects both the target children and their younger siblings. The policy improves test scores of both children while the spillover is up to 30% of the target child effect size. The effects are particularly pronounced in families where one of the children is disabled, for boys, and in immigrant families. Candidate mechanisms include improved classroom inputs and parental school choice.
School mobility, compounding socioeconomic inequities, can undermine academic achievement and behavior, particularly during middle school years. This study investigates the effect of a school-based integrated student support intervention – City Connects – on the achievement and behavior of middle school students who experience school mobility. Using administrative data from a large, urban, public school district in the U.S., we apply student fixed effects and event studies methods to analyze the academic and behavioral performance of students changing schools. The results indicate that students who moved to schools implementing the City Connects intervention performed better academically and behaviorally than other students.
We leverage log data from an educational app and two-way text message records from over 3,500 students during the summers of 2019 and 2020, along with in-depth interviews in Spanish and English, to identify patterns of family engagement with educational technology. Based on the type and timing of technology use, we identify several distinct profiles of engagement, which we group into two categories: Independent Users who engage with technology-based educational software independently, and Interaction-Supported Users who use two-way communications to support their engagement. We also find that as the demands of families from schools increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, Spanish-speaking families were significantly more likely than English-speaking families to engage with educational technology across all categories of families, particularly as Interaction-Supported Users.
Chetty et al. (2022) say county density of cross-class friendships (referred to here as “adult-bridging capital”) has causal impacts on social mobility within the United States. We instead find that social mobility rates are a function of county density of family capital (higher marriage rates and two-person households), community capital (community organizations, religious congregations, and volunteering), and mean student achievement in grades 3-8. Our models use similar multiple regression equations and the same variables employed by Chetty et al. but also include state fixed effects, student achievement, and family, community, school-bridging (cross-class high school friendships), and political (participation and institutional trust) capital. School-bridging capital is weakly correlated with mobility if adult-bridging is excluded from the model. R-squared barely changes when adult-bridging is incorporated into the model. When it is included, mobility continues to be significantly correlated with the achievement, family, and community variables but not with school-bridging and political ones. We infer that county mobility rates are largely shaped by parental presence, community life, and student achievement. To enhance mobility, public policy needs to enhance the lives of disadvantaged people at home, in school, and in communities, not just the social class of their friendships.
Expected earnings matter for college major choices, and majors differ in both their average earnings and the age profile of their earnings. We show that students' family background is strongly related to the earnings paths of the major they choose. Students with more educated parents, especially those who have graduate degrees, choose majors with lower early-career earnings but much faster earnings growth. They are also less likely to choose safe majors with little early-career earnings or unemployment downside. Parental income has a weaker relationship with major choice and operates mostly through the type of institution the student attends.