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The effects of class size on student grades at a public university

Author

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  • Kokkelenberg, Edward C.
  • Dillon, Michael
  • Christy, Sean M.

Abstract

We model how class size affects the grade higher education students earn and we test the model using an ordinal logit with and without fixed effects on over 760,000 undergraduate observations from a northeastern public university. We find that class size negatively affects grades for a variety of specifications and subsets of the data, as well as for the whole data set from this school. The specifications tested hold constant for academic department, peer effects (relative ability in class), student ability, level of student, level of course, gender, minority status, and other factors. Average grade point declines as class size increases, precipitously up to class sizes of twenty, and more gradually but monotonically through larger class sizes. The evidence is that this is not exclusively a small class effect. We conclude that there are diseconomies of scale associated with a deterioration of student outcomes as class sizes grow larger. The cost of this deterioration is not quantifiable with our data, as much of the costs are non-market costs and unobservable. Future studies of economies of scale in higher education need to address the traditional assumption of constant product quality.

Suggested Citation

  • Kokkelenberg, Edward C. & Dillon, Michael & Christy, Sean M., 2008. "The effects of class size on student grades at a public university," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 221-233, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:27:y:2008:i:2:p:221-233
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Kennedy, Peter E. & Siegfried, John J., 1997. "Class size and achievement in introductory economics: Evidence from the TUCE III data," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 385-394, October.
    2. Alan B. Krueger, 1999. "Experimental Estimates of Education Production Functions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(2), pages 497-532.
    3. Jacob A. Mincer, 1974. "Introduction to "Schooling, Experience, and Earnings"," NBER Chapters,in: Schooling, Experience, and Earnings, pages 1-4 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Caroline M. Hoxby, 2000. "The Effects of Class Size on Student Achievement: New Evidence from Population Variation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1239-1285.
    5. Kennedy, Peter E. & Siegfried, John J., 1996. "On the optimality of unequal class sizes," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 299-304, March.
    6. Alan B. Krueger, 2003. "Economic Considerations and Class Size," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(485), pages 34-63, February.
    7. Jacob A. Mincer, 1974. "Schooling, Experience, and Earnings," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number minc74-1, May.
    8. Akerhielm, Karen, 1995. "Does class size matter?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 229-241, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Zamira Hyseni-Duraku, 2014. "Class Size: Teaching Quality and Students? level of Satisfaction with their Academic Performance," Proceedings of International Academic Conferences 0100935, International Institute of Social and Economic Sciences.
    2. Piolatto, Amedeo, 2010. "Education and selective vouchers," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 993-1004, December.
    3. Lester Lusher & Doug Campbell & Scott Carrell, 2015. "TAs Like Me: Racial Interactions between Graduate Teaching Assistants and Undergraduates," NBER Working Papers 21568, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Wayne A Grove x & Stephen Wu, 2011. "Factors Influencing Student Performance in Economics: Class and Instructor Characteristics," Chapters,in: International Handbook on Teaching and Learning Economics, chapter 33 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    5. Timothy M. Diette & Manu Raghav, 2014. "A Student’s Dilemma: Is There a Traoff-off Between a Higher Salary or Higher GPA," Working Papers 2014-01, DePauw University, Department of Economics and Management.
    6. By Vincenzo Carrieri & Marcello D’Amato & Roberto Zotti, 2015. "On the causal effects of selective admission policies on students’ performances: evidence from a quasi-experiment in a large Italian university," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 67(4), pages 1034-1056.
    7. Mandel, Philipp & Süssmuth, Bernd, 2011. "Size matters. The relevance and Hicksian surplus of preferred college class size," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 1073-1084, October.
    8. Oriana Bandiera & Valentino Larcinese & Imran Rasul, 2010. "Heterogeneous Class Size Effects: New Evidence from a Panel of University Students," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 120(549), pages 1365-1398, December.
    9. repec:eee:pubeco:v:159:y:2018:i:c:p:203-224 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Salvador Contreras & Frank Badua & Mitchell Adrian, 2012. "Peer Effects on Undergraduate Business Student Performance," International Review of Economic Education, Economics Network, University of Bristol, vol. 11(1), pages 57-66.
    11. CARRIERI, Vincenzo & D'AMATO, Marcello & ZOTTI, Roberto, 2013. "Selective Admission Tests and Students' Performances. Evidence from a Natural Experiment in a Large Italian University," CELPE Working Papers 0/00, CELPE - Centre of Labour Economics and Economic Policy, University of Salerno, Italy.
    12. Cheng, Dorothy A., 2011. "Effects of class size on alternative educational outcomes across disciplines," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 980-990, October.
    13. Saavedra, Anna Rosefsky & Saavedra, Juan Esteban, 2011. "Do colleges cultivate critical thinking, problem solving, writing and interpersonal skills?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 1516-1526.
    14. Kokkelenberg, Edward C. & Sinha, Esha, 2010. "Who succeeds in STEM studies? An analysis of Binghamton University undergraduate students," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 935-946, December.
    15. repec:dew:wpaper:2014-02 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Chingos, Matthew M., 2012. "The impact of a universal class-size reduction policy: Evidence from Florida's statewide mandate," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 543-562.
    17. James Andreoni & Andy Brownback, 2014. "Grading on a Curve, and other Effects of Group Size on All-Pay Auctions," NBER Working Papers 20184, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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