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The Non-Cognitive Returns to Class Size

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  • Thomas Dee
  • Martin West

Abstract

Although recent evidence suggests that non-cognitive skills such as engagement matter for academic and economic success, there is little evidence on how key educational inputs affect the development of these skills. We present a re-analysis of follow-up data from the Project STAR class-size experiment and find evidence that early-grade class-size reductions did improve subsequent student initiative. However, these effects did not persist into the 8th grade. Furthermore, the external and, possibly, the internal validity of these inferences is compromised by non-random attrition. We also present a complementary analysis based on nationally representative survey data and a research design that relies on contemporaneous within-student and within-teacher comparisons across two academic subjects. Our results indicate that smaller classes in 8th grade lead to improvements in measures of student engagement with effect sizes ranging from 0.05 to 0.09 and smaller effects persisting two years later. Using the estimated earnings impact of these non-cognitive skills and the direct cost of a class-size reduction, the implied internal rate of return from an 8th-grade class-size reduction is 4.6 percent overall, but 7.9 percent in urban schools.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13994.

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Date of creation: May 2008
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Publication status: published as “The Non - cognitive Returns to Class Size,” with Martin West, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 33(1), March 2011, 23 - 46
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13994

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  1. West, Martin R. & Wößmann, Ludger, 2006. "Which school systems sort weaker students into smaller classes? International evidence," Munich Reprints in Economics 19694, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  2. James J. Heckman, 1999. "Policies to Foster Human Capital," NBER Working Papers 7288, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Alan B. Krueger, 2002. "Economic Considerations and Class Size," NBER Working Papers 8875, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Eric A. Hanushek, 2003. "The Failure of Input-Based Schooling Policies," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(485), pages F64-F98, February.
  5. Carneiro, Pedro & Heckman, James J., 2003. "Human Capital Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 821, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Edward P. Lazear, 1999. "Educational Production," NBER Working Papers 7349, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 411-482, July.
  8. Jacob, Brian A., 2002. "Where the boys aren't: non-cognitive skills, returns to school and the gender gap in higher education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 21(6), pages 589-598, December.
  9. Thomas S. Dee, 2007. "Teachers and the Gender Gaps in Student Achievement," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(3).
  10. Joshua D. Angrist & Victor Lavy, 1997. "Using Maimonides' Rule to Estimate the Effect of Class Size on Student Achievement," NBER Working Papers 5888, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Christopher Jepsen & Steven Rivkin, 2002. "What is the Tradeoff Between Smaller Classes and Teacher Quality?," NBER Working Papers 9205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Alan B. Krueger, 1997. "Experimental Estimates of Education Production Functions," NBER Working Papers 6051, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Thomas S. Dee, 2005. "A Teacher Like Me: Does Race, Ethnicity, or Gender Matter?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 158-165, May.
  14. Caroline M. Hoxby, 2000. "The Effects Of Class Size On Student Achievement: New Evidence From Population Variation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1239-1285, November.
  15. Greg J. Duncan & Rachel Dunifon & Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, 2001. "As Ye Sweep, So Shall Ye Reap," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 150-154, May.
  16. Orley Ashenfelter & Cecilia Rouse, 1998. "Income, Schooling, And Ability: Evidence From A New Sample Of Identical Twins," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(1), pages 253-284, February.
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  18. Rouse, Cecilia Elena, 1999. "Further estimates of the economic return to schooling from a new sample of twins," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 149-157, April.
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Cited by:
  1. Mathilde Almlund & Angela Lee Duckworth & James J. Heckman & Tim D. Kautz, 2011. "Personality Psychology and Economics," NBER Working Papers 16822, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Eren, Ozkan & Henderson, Daniel J., 2011. "Are We Wasting Our Children's Time by Giving Them More Homework?," IZA Discussion Papers 5547, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Nathaniel Hilger & Emmanuel Saez & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach & Danny Yagan, 2010. "How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings? Evidence From Project STAR," NBER Working Papers 16381, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Eric A. Hanushek & Ludger Woessmann, 2010. "The Economics of International Differences in Educational Achievement," NBER Working Papers 15949, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Dahmann, Sarah & Anger, Silke, 2014. "The Impact of Education on Personality: Evidence from a German High School Reform," IZA Discussion Papers 8139, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Fletcher, Jason M., 2013. "The effects of personality traits on adult labor market outcomes: Evidence from siblings," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 122-135.

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