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Reduced-class distinctions: Effort, ability, and the education production function


  • Babcock, Philip
  • Betts, Julian R.


Do smaller classes boost achievement mainly by helping teachers impart specific academic skills to students with low academic achievement? Or do they do so primarily by helping teachers engage poorly behaving students? The analysis uses the grade 3 to 4 transition in San Diego Unified School District as a source of exogenous variation in class size (given a California law funding small classes until grade 3). Grade 1 report cards allow separate identification of low-effort and low-achieving students. Results indicate that elicitation of effort or engagement, rather than the teaching of specific skills, may be the dominant channel by which small classes influence disadvantaged students.

Suggested Citation

  • Babcock, Philip & Betts, Julian R., 2009. "Reduced-class distinctions: Effort, ability, and the education production function," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 314-322, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:juecon:v:65:y:2009:i:3:p:314-322

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Alan B. Krueger, 1999. "Experimental Estimates of Education Production Functions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(2), pages 497-532.
    2. Angrist, Joshua D. & Krueger, Alan B., 1999. "Empirical strategies in labor economics," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 23, pages 1277-1366 Elsevier.
    3. Carneiro, Pedro & Heckman, James J., 2003. "Human Capital Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 821, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2002. "Identity and Schooling: Some Lessons for the Economics of Education," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(4), pages 1167-1201, December.
    5. Melissa Osborne & Herbert Gintis & Samuel Bowles, 2001. "The Determinants of Earnings: A Behavioral Approach," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(4), pages 1137-1176, December.
    6. Edward P. Lazear, 2001. "Educational Production," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(3), pages 777-803.
    7. Yoram Ben-Porath, 1967. "The Production of Human Capital and the Life Cycle of Earnings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 352-352.
    8. repec:fth:prinin:427 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Tom Coupe & Anna Olefir & Juan Diego Alonso, 2011. "Is Optimization an Opportunity? An Assessment of the Impact of Class Size and School Size on the Performance of Ukrainian Secondary Schools," Discussion Papers 44, Kyiv School of Economics.
    2. Graham J. McKee & Steven G. Rivkin & Katharine R.E. Sims, 2010. "Disruption, Achievement and the Heterogeneous Benefits of Smaller Classes," NBER Working Papers 15812, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Betts, Julian R., 2011. "The Economics of Tracking in Education," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
    4. Facundo Albornoz & Antonio Cabrales & Esther Hauk, 2017. "Occupational Choice with Endogenous Spillovers," Working Papers 972, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
    5. Polcyn, Jan, 2017. "Edukacja jako dobro publiczne - próba kwantyfikacji
      [Education as a public good – an attempt at quantification]
      ," MPRA Paper 76606, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 2017.
    6. Graham McKee & Katharine Sims & Steven Rivkin, 2015. "Disruption, learning, and the heterogeneous benefits of smaller classes," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 48(3), pages 1267-1286, May.
    7. repec:pit:wpaper:396 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid


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