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Estimating the distributional effects of education reforms: A look at Project STAR

  • Jackson, Erika
  • Page, Marianne E.
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    Most evaluations of education policies focus on their mean impacts; when distributional effects are investigated it is usually by comparing mean impacts across demographic subgroups. We argue that such estimates may overlook important treatment effect heterogeneity; in order to appreciate the full extent of a policy's distributional impacts one should also exploit alternative methods. We demonstrate this using data from Project STAR, where we find evidence of substantial treatment effect heterogeneity across achievement quantiles. While all children appear to benefit from being placed in small classes, the largest test score gains are at the top of the achievement distribution. This result seems to be at odds with previous evidence that smaller classes benefit disadvantaged children most, but the discrepancy is reconciled by the fact that there are similar patterns of treatment effect heterogeneity within demographic groups, and that gains for disadvantaged students are larger throughout much of the achievement distribution.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272775712001033
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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Economics of Education Review.

    Volume (Year): 32 (2013)
    Issue (Month): C ()
    Pages: 92-103

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:32:y:2013:i:c:p:92-103
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/econedurev

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    1. Bitler, Marianne P. & Gelbach, Jonah B. & Hoynes, Hilary W., 2008. "Distributional impacts of the Self-Sufficiency Project," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(3-4), pages 748-765, April.
    2. Krueger, Alan B & Whitmore, Diane M, 2001. "The Effect of Attending a Small Class in the Early Grades on College-Test Taking and Middle School Test Results: Evidence from Project STAR," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(468), pages 1-28, January.
    3. Joshua D. Angrist & Guido W. Imbens, 1995. "Identification and Estimation of Local Average Treatment Effects," NBER Technical Working Papers 0118, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Marianne P. Bitler & Jonah B. Gelbach & Hilary W. Hoynes, 2003. "What Mean Impacts Miss: Distributional Effects of Welfare Reform Experiments," Working Papers 109, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
    5. Alan B. Krueger, 1997. "Experimental Estimates of Education Production Functions," NBER Working Papers 6051, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. David Card & Alan B. Krueger, 1996. "School Resources and Student Outcomes: An Overview of the Literature and New Evidence from North and South Carolina," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 31-50, Fall.
    7. Becker, William E. & Powers, John R., 2001. "Student performance, attrition, and class size given missing student data," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 377-388, August.
    8. Hanushek, Eric A, 1986. "The Economics of Schooling: Production and Efficiency in Public Schools," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 24(3), pages 1141-77, September.
    9. Datar, Ashlesha & Mason, Bryce, 2008. "Do reductions in class size "crowd out" parental investment in education?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(6), pages 712-723, December.
    10. Betts, Julian R, 1995. "Does School Quality Matter? Evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(2), pages 231-50, May.
    11. 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.
    12. Heckman, James J & Smith, Jeffrey, 1997. "Making the Most Out of Programme Evaluations and Social Experiments: Accounting for Heterogeneity in Programme Impacts," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(4), pages 487-535, October.
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