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Resources and Standards in Urban Schools


  • Machin, Stephen

    () (London School of Economics)

  • McNally, Sandra

    () (London School of Economics)

  • Meghir, Costas

    () (Yale University)


Despite being central to government education policy in many countries, there remains considerable debate about whether resources matter for pupil outcomes. In this paper we look at this question by considering an English education policy initiative – Excellence in Cities – which has been a flagship policy aimed at raising standards in inner-city secondary schools. We report results showing a positive impact of the extra resources on school attendance and performance in Mathematics (though not for English) but, interestingly, there is a marked heterogeneity in the effectiveness of the policy. Its greatest impact has been in more disadvantaged schools and on the performance of middle and high ability students within these schools. A back-of-envelope cost-benefit calculation suggests the policy to be cost-effective. We conclude that additional resources can matter for children in the poorest secondary schools, particularly when building on a solid educational or ability background. However, small changes in resources have little or no effect on the ‘hard to reach’ children who have not achieved a sufficiently strong prior level.

Suggested Citation

  • Machin, Stephen & McNally, Sandra & Meghir, Costas, 2007. "Resources and Standards in Urban Schools," IZA Discussion Papers 2653, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2653

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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. Bénabou, Roland & Kramarz, Francis & Prost, Corinne, 2009. "The French zones d'éducation prioritaire: Much ado about nothing?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 345-356, June.
    3. Kenneth Y. Chay & Patrick J. McEwan & Miguel Urquiola, 2005. "The Central Role of Noise in Evaluating Interventions That Use Test Scores to Rank Schools," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1237-1258, September.
    4. Victor Lavy & Analia Schlosser, 2005. "Targeted Remedial Education for Underperforming Teenagers: Costs and Benefits," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(4), pages 839-874, October.
    5. Carneiro, Pedro & Heckman, James J., 2003. "Human Capital Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 821, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Richard Blundell & Monica Costa Dias & Costas Meghir & John Van Reenen, 2004. "Evaluating the Employment Impact of a Mandatory Job Search Program," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 2(4), pages 569-606, June.
    7. 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.
    8. Alan B. Krueger, 2003. "Economic Considerations and Class Size," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(485), pages 34-63, February.
    9. Janet Currie, 2001. "Early Childhood Education Programs," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(2), pages 213-238, Spring.
    10. Stephen Machin & Sandra McNally & Costas Meghir, 2004. "Improving Pupil Performance in English Secondary Schools: Excellence in Cities," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 2(2-3), pages 396-405, 04/05.
    11. Eric A. Hanushek, 2003. "The Failure of Input-Based Schooling Policies," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(485), pages 64-98, February.
    12. Joshua D. Angrist & Victor Lavy, 1999. "Using Maimonides' Rule to Estimate the Effect of Class Size on Scholastic Achievement," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(2), pages 533-575.
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    Cited by:

    1. Rodríguez-Planas, Núria, 2010. "Longer-Term Impacts of Mentoring, Educational Services, and Incentives to Learn: Evidence from a Randomized Trial," IZA Discussion Papers 4754, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Steve Bradley & Jim Taylor, 2010. "Diversity, Choice and the Quasi-market: An Empirical Analysis of Secondary Education Policy in England," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 72(1), pages 1-26, February.
    3. Gibbons, Stephen & McNally, Sandra & Viarengo, Martina, 2011. "Does additional spending help urban schools? An evaluation using boundary discontinuities," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 44676, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Helena Holmlund & Olmo Silva, 2014. "Targeting Noncognitive Skills to Improve Cognitive Outcomes: Evidence from a Remedial Education Intervention," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(2), pages 126-160.
    5. Gibbons, Stephen & Machin, Stephen & Silva, Olmo, 2013. "Valuing school quality using boundary discontinuity," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 45246, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    6. J Taylor & S Bradley & G Migali, 2009. "The distributional impact of increased school resources: the Specialist Schools Initiative and the Excellence in Cities Programme," Working Papers 602528, Lancaster University Management School, Economics Department.
    7. Gibbons, Stephen & Machin, Stephen & Silva, Olmo, 2013. "Valuing school quality using boundary discontinuities," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 15-28.
    8. Monique De Haan, 2012. "The Effect of Additional Funds for Low-Ability Pupils - A Nonparametric Bounds Analysis," CESifo Working Paper Series 3993, CESifo Group Munich.
    9. Machin, Stephen & Wyness, Gill & McNally, Sandra, 2013. "Education in a devolved Scotland: a quantitative analysis," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 57971, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    10. Meg Elkins & Simon Feeny & David Prentice, 2015. "Do Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers reduce poverty and improve well-being?," Discussion Papers 15/02, University of Nottingham, School of Economics.
    11. Stephen Gibbons & Sandra McNally, 2013. "The Effects of Resources Across School Phases: A Summary of Recent Evidence," CEP Discussion Papers dp1226, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    12. Deborah A. Cobb-Clark & Nikhil Jha, 2016. "Educational Achievement and the Allocation of School Resources," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 49(3), pages 251-271, September.

    More about this item


    resources; evaluation; disadvantage; education;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • H52 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Education
    • C52 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Model Evaluation, Validation, and Selection

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