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Are Student Absences Worth the Worry in U.S. Primary Schools?

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  • Gershenson, Seth

    (American University)

  • Jacknowitz, Alison

    (American University)

  • Brannegan, Andrew

    (Aspire Public Schools)

Abstract

Student absences are a potentially important, yet understudied, input in the educational process. Using longitudinal data from a nationally-representative survey and rich administrative records from North Carolina, we investigate the relationship between student absences and academic performance. Generally, student absences are associated with modest but statistically significant decreases in academic achievement. The harmful effects of absences are approximately linear, and are two to three times larger among fourth and fifth graders in North Carolina than among kindergarten and first-grade students in the nationally representative Early Childhood Longitudinal Study. In both datasets, absences similarly reduce achievement in urban, rural, and suburban schools. In North Carolina, the harm associated with student absences is greater among both low-income students and English language learners, particularly for reading achievement. Also, in North Carolina, unexcused absences are twice as harmful as excused absences. Policy implications and directions for future research are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Gershenson, Seth & Jacknowitz, Alison & Brannegan, Andrew, 2015. "Are Student Absences Worth the Worry in U.S. Primary Schools?," IZA Discussion Papers 9558, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp9558
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    Cited by:

    1. Aucejo, Esteban & Romano, Teresa, 2014. "Assessing the effect of school days and absenceson test score performance," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 60498, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    2. Klein, Markus & Sosu, Edward M. & Dare, Shadrach, 2020. "Mapping inequalities in school attendance: The relationship between dimensions of socioeconomic status and forms of school absence," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 118(C).
    3. Aucejo, Esteban M. & Romano, Teresa Foy, 2016. "Assessing the effect of school days and absences on test score performance," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 68655, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Magdalena Bennett & Peter Bergman, 2021. "Better Together? Social Networks in Truancy and the Targeting of Treatment," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 39(1), pages 1-36.
    5. Martin Huber & Anna Solovyeva, 2020. "Direct and Indirect Effects under Sample Selection and Outcome Attrition," Econometrics, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(4), pages 1-25, December.
    6. Seth Gershenson & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, 2016. "Linking Teacher Quality, Student Attendance, and Student Achievement," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 11(2), pages 125-149, Spring.
    7. Seth Gershenson & Erdal Tekin, 2018. "The Effect of Community Traumatic Events on Student Achievement: Evidence from the Beltway Sniper Attacks," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 13(4), pages 513-544, Fall.
    8. Ager, Philipp & Eriksson, Katherine & Karger, Ezra & Nencka, Peter & Thomasson, Melissa A., 2020. "School Closures During the 1918 Flu Pandemic," CEPR Discussion Papers 15575, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Baron, E. Jason & Goldstein, Ezra G. & Wallace, Cullen T., 2020. "Suffering in silence: How COVID-19 school closures inhibit the reporting of child maltreatment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 190(C).
    10. Cook, Philip J. & Dodge, Kenneth A. & Gifford, Elizabeth J. & Schulting, Amy B., 2017. "A new program to prevent primary school absenteeism: Results of a pilot study in five schools," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 262-270.
    11. Heinrich, Carolyn J. & Knowles, Matthew T., 2020. "A fine predicament: Conditioning, compliance and consequences in a labeled cash transfer program," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 129(C).
    12. Thompson, Paul N., 2019. "Effects of Four-Day School Weeks on Student Achievement: Evidence from Oregon," IZA Discussion Papers 12204, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    13. Liu, Jing & Lee, Monica & Gershenson, Seth, 2021. "The short- and long-run impacts of secondary school absences," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 199(C).
    14. Gershenson, Seth & McBean, Jessica Rae & Tran, Long, 2018. "Quantile Regression Estimates of the Effect of Student Absences on Academic Achievement," IZA Discussion Papers 11912, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    15. Thompson, Paul N., 2021. "Is four less than five? Effects of four-day school weeks on student achievement in Oregon," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 193(C).
    16. Kalil, Ariel & Mayer, Susan E. & Gallegos, Sebastian, 2021. "Using behavioral insights to increase attendance at subsidized preschool programs: The Show Up to Grow Up intervention," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 163(C), pages 65-79.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    student absences; attendance; achievement gaps; education production function;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education

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