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Experimental Evidence on the Effect of Childhood Investments on Postsecondary Attainment and Degree Completion

  • Susan Dynarski
  • Joshua M. Hyman
  • Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

This paper examines the effect of early childhood investments on college enrollment and degree completion. We use the random assignment in the Project STAR experiment to estimate the effect of smaller classes in primary school on college entry, college choice, and degree completion. We improve on existing work in this area with unusually detailed data on college enrollment spells and the previously unexplored outcome of college degree completion. We find that assignment to a small class increases the probability of attending college by 2.7 percentage points, with effects more than twice as large among blacks. Among students enrolled in the poorest third of schools, the effect is 7.3 percentage points. Smaller classes increase the likelihood of earning a college degree by 1.6 percentage points and shift students towards high-earning fields such as STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), business and economics. We find that test score effects at the time of the experiment are an excellent predictor of long-term improvements in postsecondary outcomes.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17533.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17533.

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Date of creation: Oct 2011
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Publication status: published as Experimental Evidence on the Effect of Childhood Investments on Postsecondary Attainment and Degree Completion (with Joshua Hyman and Diane Schanzenbach). 2013. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 32:4, pp. 692-717 (lead article). Ray Vernon Memorial Prize for best paper in JPAM.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17533
Note: CH ED LS PE
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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  1. Arcidiacono, Peter, 2004. "Ability sorting and the returns to college major," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 343-375.
  2. John Bound & Michael F. Lovenheim & Sarah Turner, 2010. "Why Have College Completion Rates Declined? An Analysis of Changing Student Preparation and Collegiate Resources," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 129-57, July.
  3. 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.
  4. Susan M. Dynarski, 1999. "Does Aid Matter? Measuring the Effect of Student Aid on College Attendance and Completion," NBER Working Papers 7422, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Caroline M. Hoxby & Sonali Murarka, 2009. "Charter Schools in New York City: Who Enrolls and How They Affect Their Students' Achievement," NBER Working Papers 14852, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Joshua D. Angrist & Susan M. Dynarski & Thomas J. Kane & Parag A. Pathak & Christopher R. Walters, 2010. "Who Benefits from KIPP?," NBER Working Papers 15740, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Lisa Barrow & Lashawn Richburg-Hayes & Cecilia Elena Rouse & Thomas Brock, 2014. "Paying for Performance: The Education Impacts of a Community College Scholarship Program for Low-Income Adults," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(3), pages 563 - 599.
  8. James Heckman & Pedro Carneiro, 2003. "Human Capital Policy," NBER Working Papers 9495, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Thomas S. Dee, 2003. "Are There Civic Returns to Education?," NBER Working Papers 9588, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. David J. Deming & Justine S. Hastings & Thomas J. Kane & Douglas O. Staiger, 2011. "School Choice, School Quality and Postsecondary Attainment," NBER Working Papers 17438, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Atila Abdulkadiroğlu & Joshua D. Angrist & Susan M. Dynarski & Thomas J. Kane & Parag A. Pathak, 2011. "Accountability and Flexibility in Public Schools: Evidence from Boston's Charters And Pilots," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 699-748.
  12. Anderson, Michael L., 2008. "Multiple Inference and Gender Differences in the Effects of Early Intervention: A Reevaluation of the Abecedarian, Perry Preschool, and Early Training Projects," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 103(484), pages 1481-1495.
  13. David Deming, 2009. "Early Childhood Intervention and Life-Cycle Skill Development: Evidence from Head Start," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(3), pages 111-34, July.
  14. Black, Philip & Calitz, Estian & Steenekamp, Tjaart & Siebrits, Krige (ed.), 2011. "Public Economics," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, edition 5, number 9780195995152, March.
  15. Hamermesh, Daniel S. & Donald, Stephen G., 2008. "The effect of college curriculum on earnings: An affinity identifier for non-ignorable non-response bias," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 144(2), pages 479-491, June.
  16. Eric P. Bettinger & Bridget Terry Long & Philip Oreopoulos & Lisa Sanbonmatsu, 2009. "The Role of Simplification and Information in College Decisions: Results from the H&R Block FAFSA Experiment," NBER Working Papers 15361, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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