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Urban density and pupil attainment

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  • Gibbons, Stephen
  • Silva, Olmo

Abstract

We explore the association between urban density and pupil attainment using three cohorts of pupils in schooling in England. Although – as widely recognised – attainment in dense urban places is low on average, this is not because urban environments disadvantage pupils, but because the most disadvantaged pupils with low average attainments attend the most urbanised schools. To control for this, we exploit changes in urban density faced by pupils during compulsory transition from Primary to Secondary school, and measure educational progress at the end of the Secondary phase, relative to attainments at the end of Primary schooling. Our results suggest that there are small but significant benefits from education in schools in more densely urbanised settings: Pupils in schools in relatively dense places – measured in terms of school density and other urban indicators – progress faster than others in their cohort, but the elasticity is low, at around 0.02. We detect this density advantage even amongst pupils moving relatively short distances between Primary and Secondary schools within urban areas, so we cannot attribute it to broad urbanisation effects experienced by pupils making rural-urban school moves. A more likely explanation lies in greater school choice and competition between closely co-located educational providers.

Suggested Citation

  • Gibbons, Stephen & Silva, Olmo, 2007. "Urban density and pupil attainment," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19393, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:19393
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    8. Raoul van Maarseveen, 2021. "The urban–rural education gap: do cities indeed make us smarter? [Educational investment responses to economic opportunity: evidence from Indian road construction]," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(5), pages 683-714.
    9. Rebecca Allen & Anna Vignoles, 2016. "Can school competition improve standards? The case of faith schools in England," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 50(3), pages 959-973, May.
    10. Sørensen, Elise Stenholt & Høst, Anders Kamp, 2015. "Does distance determine who is in higher education?," MPRA Paper 74517, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Oliver Himmler, 2009. "The Effects of School Competition on Academic Achievement and Grading Standards," CESifo Working Paper Series 2676, CESifo.
    12. Bacolod, Marigee & Blum, Bernardo S. & Rangel, Marcos A. & Strange, William C., 2023. "Learners in cities: Agglomeration and the spatial division of cognition," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(C).
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Urban Density and Agglomeration; School Choice and Competition; Pupil Achievement;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • R20 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - General

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