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The Impact of Family Income on Child Achievement

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  • Gordon B. Dahl
  • Lance Lochner

Abstract

Understanding the consequences of growing up poor for a child's well-being is an important research question, but one that is difficult to answer due to the potential endogeneity of family income. Past estimates of the effect of family income on child development have often been plagued by omitted variable bias and measurement error. In this paper, we use a fixed effect instrumental variables strategy to estimate the causal effect of income on children's math and reading achievement. Our primary source of identification comes from the large, non-linear changes in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) over the last two decades. The largest of these changes increased family income by as much as 20%, or approximately $2,100. Using a panel of over 6,000 children matched to their mothers from National Longitudinal Survey of Youth datasets allows us to address problems associated with unobserved heterogeneity and endogenous transitory income shocks as well as measurement error in income. Our baseline estimates imply that a $1,000 increase in income raises math test scores by 2.1% and reading test scores by 3.6% of a standard deviation. The results are even stronger when looking at children from disadvantaged families who are affected most by the large changes in the EITC, and are robust to a variety of alternative specifications.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11279.

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Date of creation: Apr 2005
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11279

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  1. Richard J. Murnane & John B. Willett & Yves Duhaldeborde & John H. Tyler, 2000. "How important are the cognitive skills of teenagers in predicting subsequent earnings?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(4), pages 547-568.
  2. Eissa, Nada & Liebman, Jeffrey B, 1996. "Labor Supply Response to the Earned Income Tax Credit," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(2), pages 605-37, May.
  3. Alan Krueger & Diane Whitmore, 1999. "The Effect of Attending a Small Class in the Early Grades on College-Test Taking and Middle School Test Results: Evidence from Project STAR," Working Papers 806, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  4. Arellano, Manuel & Honore, Bo, 2001. "Panel data models: some recent developments," Handbook of Econometrics, in: J.J. Heckman & E.E. Leamer (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 53, pages 3229-3296 Elsevier.
  5. Stacy Dickert & Scott Houser & John Karl Scholz, 1995. "The Earned Income Tax Credit and Transfer Programs: A Study of Labor Market and Program Participation," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 9, pages 1-50 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Robert Haveman & Barbara Wolfe, 1995. "The Determinants of Children's Attainments: A Review of Methods and Findings," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1829-1878, December.
  7. Dennis D. Kimko & Eric A. Hanushek, 2000. "Schooling, Labor-Force Quality, and the Growth of Nations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1184-1208, December.
  8. V. Joseph Hotz, 2003. "The Earned Income Tax Credit," NBER Chapters, in: Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, pages 141-198 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Casey B. Mulligan, 1999. "Galton versus the Human Capital Approach to Inheritance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages S184-S224, December.
  10. Pedro Carneiro & James J. Heckman, 2002. "The Evidence on Credit Constraints in Post-Secondary Schooling," NBER Working Papers 9055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. David M. Blau, 1999. "The Effect Of Income On Child Development," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(2), pages 261-276, May.
  12. Daniel Feenberg & Elisabeth Coutts, 1993. "An introduction to the TAXSIM model," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(1), pages 189-194.
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