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What Do Parents Value in Education? An Empirical Investigation of Parents' Revealed Preferences for Teachers


  • Brian A. Jacob
  • Lars Lefgren


This paper examines revealed parent preferences for their children's education using a unique data set that includes the number of parent requests for individual elementary school teachers along with information on teacher attributes including principal reports of teacher characteristics that are typically unobservable. We find that, on average, parents strongly prefer teachers that principals describe as good at promoting student satisfaction and place relatively less value on a teacher's ability to raise standardized math or reading achievement. These aggregate effects, however, mask striking differences across family demographics. Families in higher poverty schools strongly value student achievement and are essentially indifferent to the principal's report of a teacher's ability to promote student satisfaction. The results are reversed for families in higher-income schools.

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  • Brian A. Jacob & Lars Lefgren, 2005. "What Do Parents Value in Education? An Empirical Investigation of Parents' Revealed Preferences for Teachers," NBER Working Papers 11494, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11494
    Note: CH ED

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sandra E. Black, 1999. "Do Better Schools Matter? Parental Valuation of Elementary Education," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(2), pages 577-599.
    2. Eric A. Hanushek & John F. Kain & Steven G. Rivkin & Daniel M. O'Brien, 2005. "The Market for Teacher Quality," Discussion Papers 04-025, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
    3. 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.
    4. Jesse M. Rothstein, 2006. "Good Principals or Good Peers? Parental Valuation of School Characteristics, Tiebout Equilibrium, and the Incentive Effects of Competition among Jurisdictions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1333-1350, September.
    5. Jonah E. Rockoff, 2004. "The Impact of Individual Teachers on Student Achievement: Evidence from Panel Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 247-252, May.
    6. David N. Figlio & Maurice E. Lucas, 2004. "What's in a Grade? School Report Cards and the Housing Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 591-604, June.
    7. Brian A. Jacob & Lars Lefgren, 2007. "What Do Parents Value in Education? An Empirical Investigation of Parents' Revealed Preferences for Teachers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(4), pages 1603-1637.
    8. Berry, Steven & Levinsohn, James & Pakes, Ariel, 1995. "Automobile Prices in Market Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(4), pages 841-890, July.
    9. Daniel G. Sullivan, 2001. "A note on the estimation of linear regression models with Heteroskedastic measurement errors," Working Paper Series WP-01-23, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tahir Andrabi & Jishnu Das & Asim Ijaz Khwaja & Tristan Zajonc, 2011. "Do Value-Added Estimates Add Value? Accounting for Learning Dynamics," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 29-54, July.
    2. Reback, Randall, 2008. "Demand (and supply) in an inter-district public school choice program," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 402-416, August.
    3. Barankay, Iwan & Lockwood, Ben, 2007. "Decentralization and the productive efficiency of government: Evidence from Swiss cantons," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(5-6), pages 1197-1218, June.
    4. Andrabi, Tahir & Das, Jishnu & Khwaja, Asim Ijaz & Zajonc, Tristan, 2009. "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow? Examining the Extent and Implications of Low Persistence in Child Learning," Scholarly Articles 4412571, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
    5. Gradstein, Mark, 2008. "Endogenous Reversals of Fortune," IZA Discussion Papers 3469, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Cook, Loraine D. & Jennings, Zellynne, 2016. "Perspectives of Jamaican parents and their secondary school children on the value of education: Effects of selected variables on parents’ perspectives," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 90-99.

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    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education

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