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The Role of Specific Subjects in Education Production Functions: Evidence from Morning Classes in Chicago Public High Schools


  • Cortes, Kalena E.

    () (Texas A&M University)

  • Bricker, Jesse

    () (Federal Reserve Board)

  • Rohlfs, Chris

    () (Morgan Stanley)


Absences in Chicago Public High Schools are 3-7 days per year higher in first period than at other times of the day. This study exploits this empirical regularity and the essentially random variation between students in the ordering of classes over the day to measure how the returns to classroom learning vary by course subject, and how much attendance in one class spills over into learning in other subjects. We find that having a class in first period reduces grades in that course and has little effect on long-term grades or grades in related subjects. We also find moderately-sized negative effects of having a class in first period on test scores in that subject and in related subjects, particularly for math classes.

Suggested Citation

  • Cortes, Kalena E. & Bricker, Jesse & Rohlfs, Chris, 2010. "The Role of Specific Subjects in Education Production Functions: Evidence from Morning Classes in Chicago Public High Schools," IZA Discussion Papers 5031, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5031

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hansen, Karsten T. & Heckman, James J. & Mullen, K.J.Kathleen J., 2004. "The effect of schooling and ability on achievement test scores," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 39-98.
    2. Brian A. Jacob & Lars Lefgren, 2004. "Remedial Education and Student Achievement: A Regression-Discontinuity Analysis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(1), pages 226-244, February.
    3. Jacobson, Louis & LaLonde, Robert & G. Sullivan, Daniel, 2005. "Estimating the returns to community college schooling for displaced workers," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 125(1-2), pages 271-304.
    4. Daniel Aaronson & Lisa Barrow & William Sander, 2007. "Teachers and Student Achievement in the Chicago Public High Schools," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 95-135.
    5. Brian A. Jacob & Lars Lefgren, 2009. "The Effect of Grade Retention on High School Completion," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(3), pages 33-58, July.
    6. Brian A. Jacob & Lars Lefgren, 2003. "Are Idle Hands the Devil's Workshop? Incapacitation, Concentration, and Juvenile Crime," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(5), pages 1560-1577, December.
    7. Dills, Angela K. & Hernández-Julián, Rey, 2008. "Course scheduling and academic performance," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(6), pages 646-654, December.
    8. Thomas S. Dee & Sarah R. Cohodes, 2008. "Out-of-Field Teachers and Student Achievement," Public Finance Review, , vol. 36(1), pages 7-32, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Timothy M. Diette & Manu Raghav, 2016. "Does the Early Bird Catch the Worm or a Lower GPA? Evidence from a Liberal Arts College," Working Papers 2016-01, DePauw University, Department of Economics and Management.
    2. repec:dew:wpaper:2016-01 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    absenteeism; attendance; education production; subject-specific; math; English; morning classes; first period; course schedule; quasi-experimental; Chicago; high school;

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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