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The Effect of Community Traumatic Events on Student Achievement: Evidence from the Beltway Sniper Attacks

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  • Seth Gershenson
  • Erdal Tekin

Abstract

Community traumatic events such as mass shootings, terrorist attacks, and natural or man-made disasters have the potential to disrupt student learning in numerous ways. For example, these events can reduce instructional time by causing teacher and student absences, school closures, and disturbances to usual classroom routines. Similarly, they might also disrupt home environments. This paper uses a quasi-experimental research design to identify the effects of the 2002 “Beltway Sniper” attacks on student achievement in Virginia’s public elementary schools. In order to identify the causal impact of these events, the empirical analysis uses a difference-in-differences strategy that exploits geographic variation in schools’ proximity to the attacks. The main results indicate that the attacks significantly reduced school-level proficiency rates in schools within five miles of an attack. Evidence of a causal effect is most robust for math proficiency rates in the third and fifth grades, and third grade reading proficiency, suggesting that the shootings caused a decline in school proficiency rates of about five to nine percentage points. Particularly concerning from an equity standpoint, these effects appear to be entirely driven by achievement declines in schools that serve higher proportions of racial minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged students. Finally, results from supplementary analyses suggest that these deleterious effects faded out in subsequent years.

Suggested Citation

  • Seth Gershenson & Erdal Tekin, 2015. "The Effect of Community Traumatic Events on Student Achievement: Evidence from the Beltway Sniper Attacks," NBER Working Papers 21055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21055
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Joshua Goodman, 2014. "Flaking Out: Student Absences and Snow Days as Disruptions of Instructional Time," NBER Working Papers 20221, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Joana Monteiro & Rudi Rocha, 2017. "Drug Battles and School Achievement: Evidence from Rio de Janeiro's Favelas," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 99(2), pages 213-228, May.
    3. Scott E. Carrell & Mark L. Hoekstra, 2010. "Externalities in the Classroom: How Children Exposed to Domestic Violence Affect Everyone's Kids," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 211-228, January.
    4. Jonathan Guryan & Erik Hurst & Melissa Kearney, 2008. "Parental Education and Parental Time with Children," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(3), pages 23-46, Summer.
    5. repec:taf:edecon:v:26:y:2018:i:1:p:62-77 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Giorgio Di Pietro, 2018. "The academic impact of natural disasters: evidence from L’Aquila earthquake," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 26(1), pages 62-77, January.
    7. Janet Currie & Erdal Tekin, 2012. "Understanding the Cycle: Childhood Maltreatment and Future Crime," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 47(2), pages 509-549.
    8. Dave E. Marcotte & Steven W. Hemelt, 2008. "Unscheduled School Closings and Student Performance," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 3(3), pages 316-338, July.
    9. Eric A. Hanushek & Steven G. Rivkin, 2010. "Generalizations about Using Value-Added Measures of Teacher Quality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 267-271, May.
    10. Edward P. Lazear, 2001. "Educational Production," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(3), pages 777-803.
    11. Ariel Kalil & Rebecca Ryan & Michael Corey, 2012. "Diverging Destinies: Maternal Education and the Developmental Gradient in Time With Children," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 49(4), pages 1361-1383, November.
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    1. repec:eee:juecon:v:102:y:2017:i:c:p:22-33 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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