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The Non-Cognitive Returns to Class Size

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  • Thomas Dee
  • Martin West

Abstract

Although recent evidence suggests that non-cognitive skills such as engagement matter for academic and economic success, there is little evidence on how key educational inputs affect the development of these skills. We present a re-analysis of follow-up data from the Project STAR class-size experiment and find evidence that early-grade class-size reductions did improve subsequent student initiative. However, these effects did not persist into the 8th grade. Furthermore, the external and, possibly, the internal validity of these inferences is compromised by non-random attrition. We also present a complementary analysis based on nationally representative survey data and a research design that relies on contemporaneous within-student and within-teacher comparisons across two academic subjects. Our results indicate that smaller classes in 8th grade lead to improvements in measures of student engagement with effect sizes ranging from 0.05 to 0.09 and smaller effects persisting two years later. Using the estimated earnings impact of these non-cognitive skills and the direct cost of a class-size reduction, the implied internal rate of return from an 8th-grade class-size reduction is 4.6 percent overall, but 7.9 percent in urban schools.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Dee & Martin West, 2008. "The Non-Cognitive Returns to Class Size," NBER Working Papers 13994, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13994
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    Cited by:

    1. Peter Fredriksson & Björn Öckert & Hessel Oosterbeek, 2013. "Long-Term Effects of Class Size," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(1), pages 249-285.
    2. Hanushek, Eric A. & Woessmann, Ludger, 2011. "The Economics of International Differences in Educational Achievement," Handbook of the Economics of Education, in: Erik Hanushek & Stephen Machin & Ludger Woessmann (ed.), Handbook of the Economics of Education, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 2, pages 89-200, Elsevier.
    3. Almlund, Mathilde & Duckworth, Angela Lee & Heckman, James & Kautz, Tim, 2011. "Personality Psychology and Economics," Handbook of the Economics of Education, in: Erik Hanushek & Stephen Machin & Ludger Woessmann (ed.), Handbook of the Economics of Education, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 0, pages 1-181, Elsevier.
    4. repec:hal:spmain:info:hdl:2441/7gu5r9nb899om9oin7k24kjpgt is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Kelvin K. C. Seah, 2021. "Do you speak my language? The effect of sharing a teacher's native language on student achievement," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 88(1), pages 245-273, July.
    6. Stéphane Carcillo & Rodrigo Fernandez & Sebastian Königs & Andreea Minea, 2015. "NEET Youth in the Aftermath of the Crisis," Sciences Po publications 164, Sciences Po.
    7. Constantin Mang, 2016. "Market Consequences of ICT Innovations," ifo Beiträge zur Wirtschaftsforschung, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, number 70.
    8. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Nathaniel Hilger & Emmanuel Saez & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach & Danny Yagan, 2011. "How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings? Evidence from Project Star," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(4), pages 1593-1660.
    9. Niklas Jakobsson & Mattias Persson & Mikael Svensson, 2013. "Class-size effects on adolescents' mental health and well-being in Swedish schools," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 21(3), pages 248-263, July.
    10. Sarah Dahmann & Silke Anger, 2014. "The Impact of Education on Personality: Evidence from a German High School Reform," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 658, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    11. Schurer, Stefanie & de New, Sonja C. & Leung, Felix, 2015. "Do Universities Shape Their Students' Personality?," IZA Discussion Papers 8873, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    12. Heckman, James J. & Kautz, Tim, 2012. "Hard evidence on soft skills," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 451-464.
    13. Fletcher, Jason M., 2013. "The effects of personality traits on adult labor market outcomes: Evidence from siblings," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 122-135.
    14. Stéphane Carcillo & Rodrigo Fernandez & Sebastian Königs & Andreea Minea, 2015. "NEET Youth in the Aftermath of the Crisis," Working Papers hal-03429941, HAL.
    15. Eren, Ozkan & Henderson, Daniel J., 2011. "Are we wasting our children's time by giving them more homework?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 950-961, October.
    16. Jana Gross & Simone Balestra & Uschi Backes-Gellner, 2017. "Class Size in Early Grades, Student Grit and Later School Outcomes," Economics of Education Working Paper Series 0129, University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration (IBW), revised Sep 2018.
    17. Debra Shepherd, 2015. "Learn to teach, teach to learn: A within-pupil across-subject approach to estimating the impact of teacher subject knowledge on South African grade 6 performance," Working Papers 01/2015, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.

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    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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