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The Labor of Division: Returns to Compulsory Math Coursework

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  • Goodman, Joshua

    (Harvard University)

Abstract

Labor economists know that a year of schooling raises earnings but have little evidence on the impact of specific courses completed. I identify the impact of math coursework on earnings using the differential timing of state-level increases in high school graduation requirements as a source of exogenous variation. The increased requirements induced large increases in both the completed math coursework and earnings of blacks, particularly black males. Two-sample instrumental variable estimates suggest that each additional year of math raised blacks' earnings by 5-9%, accounting for a large fraction of the value of a year of schooling. Closer analysis suggests that much of this effect comes from black students who attend non-white schools and who will not attend college. The earnings impact of additional math coursework is robust to changes in empirical specification, is not driven by selection into the labor force, and persists when earnings are conditioned on educational attainment. The reforms close one fifth of the earnings gap between black and white males. Estimates for whites are similar to those of blacks but are much noisier due to the reforms' weaker impact on white students' coursework. These results suggest that math coursework is an important determinant of the labor market return to schooling, that simple minimum requirements largely benefit low-skilled students, and that more demanding requirements might be necessary to improve the outcomes of high-skilled students.

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  • Goodman, Joshua, 2012. "The Labor of Division: Returns to Compulsory Math Coursework," Working Paper Series rwp12-032, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp12-032
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    Cited by:

    1. Kalena E. Cortes & Joshua S. Goodman & Takako Nomi, 2015. "Intensive Math Instruction and Educational Attainment: Long-Run Impacts of Double-Dose Algebra," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 50(1), pages 108-158.
    2. Guy Tchuente, 2016. "High School Human Capital Portfolio and College Outcomes," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 10(3), pages 267-302.
    3. Hill, Andrew J., 2014. "The costs of failure: Negative externalities in high school course repetition," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 91-105.
    4. Meta Brown & John Grigsby & Wilbert van der Klaauw & Jaya Wen & Basit Zafar, 2016. "Financial Education and the Debt Behavior of the Young," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 29(9), pages 2490-2522.
    5. Wagner, Valentin & Riener, Gerhard, 2015. "Peers or parents? On non-monetary incentives in schools," DICE Discussion Papers 203, University of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE).
    6. Aslund, Olof & Grönqvist, Hans & Hall, Caroline & Vlachos, Jonas, 2015. "Education and Criminal Behavior: Insights from an Expansion of Upper Secondary School," IZA Discussion Papers 9374, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Goodman, Joshua Samuel, 2012. "Gold Standards?: State Standards Reform and Student Achievement," Scholarly Articles 9368023, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
    8. Görlitz, Katja & Gravert, Christina, 2015. "The effects of increasing the standards of the high school curriculum on school dropout," Discussion Papers 2015/1, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
    9. Cecilia Speroni, 2011. "High School Dual Enrollment Programs Are We Fast-Tracking Students Too Fast," Mathematica Policy Research Reports ae47a4f61e47474d97003704c, Mathematica Policy Research.
    10. repec:mpr:mprres:7288 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Marta De Philippis, 2016. "STEM Graduates and Secondary School Curriculum: Does Early Exposure to Science Matter?," CEP Discussion Papers dp1443, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    12. Dougherty, Shaun M. & Goodman, Joshua S. & Hill, Darryl V. & Litke, Erica G. & Page, Lindsay C., 2017. "Objective course placement and college readiness: Evidence from targeted middle school math acceleration," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 141-161.
    13. Victor Lavy, 2010. "Do Differences in School's Instruction Time Explain International Achievement Gaps in Maths, Science and Language? Evidence from Developed and Developing Countries," CEE Discussion Papers 0118, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
    14. Görlitz, Katja & Gravert, Christina, 2015. "The Effects of a High School Curriculum Reform on University Enrollment and the Choice of College Major," IZA Discussion Papers 8983, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    15. David J. Deming & Justine S. Hastings & Thomas J. Kane & Douglas O. Staiger, 2014. "School Choice, School Quality, and Postsecondary Attainment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(3), pages 991-1013, March.
    16. Brian A. Jacob & Susan M. Dynarski & Kenneth Frank & Barbara Schneider, 2016. "Are Expectations Alone Enough? Estimating the Effect of a Mandatory College-Prep Curriculum in Michigan," CESifo Working Paper Series 5848, CESifo Group Munich.
    17. Aughinbaugh, Alison, 2012. "The effects of high school math curriculum on college attendance: Evidence from the NLSY97," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 861-870.
    18. Brian Jacob & Susan Dynarski & Kenneth Frank & Barbara Schneider, 2016. "Are Expectations Alone Enough? Estimating the Effect of a Mandatory College-Prep Curriculum in Michigan," NBER Working Papers 22013, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Falch, Torberg & Nyhus, Ole Henning & Strøm, Bjarne, 2014. "Causal effects of mathematics," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 174-187.
    20. Catherine Weinberger, 2014. "Are There Racial Gaps in High School Leadership Opportunities? Do Academics Matter More?," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 41(4), pages 393-409, December.

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