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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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    Cited by:

    1. Cesur, Resul & Güneş, Pınar Mine & Tekin, Erdal & Ulker, Aydogan, 2017. "The value of socialized medicine: The impact of universal primary healthcare provision on mortality rates in Turkey," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 150(C), pages 75-93.
    2. Cabral, Marika & Kim, Bokyung & Rossin-Slater, Maya & Schnell, Molly & Schwandt, Hannes, 2020. "Trauma at School: The Impacts of Shootings on Students' Human Capital and Economic Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 13998, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Bharadwaj, Prashant & Bhuller, Manudeep & Løken, Katrine V. & Wentzel, Mirjam, 2021. "Surviving a mass shooting," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 201(C).
    4. Marika Cabral & Bokyung Kim & Maya Rossin-Slater & Molly Schnell & Hannes Schwandt, 2020. "Trauma at School: The Impacts of Shootings on Students' Human Capital and Economic Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 28311, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. NAKAMURO Makiko & ITO Hirotake, 2020. "The Effect of Computer Assisted Learning on Children's Cognitive and Noncognitive Skills: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in Cambodia," Discussion papers 20074, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    6. Badunenko, Oleg & Henderson, Daniel J., 2021. "Production Analysis with Asymmetric Noise," MPRA Paper 110888, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Gerard Torrats-Espinosa, 2020. "Crime and Inequality in Academic Achievement Across School Districts in the United States," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 57(1), pages 123-145, February.
    8. Wilhelmsson, Mats & Ceccato, Vania & Gerell, Manne, 2021. "What effect does gun-related violence have on the attractiveness of a residential area? The case of Stockholm, Sweden," Working Paper Series 21/2, Royal Institute of Technology, Department of Real Estate and Construction Management & Banking and Finance.
    9. Sharkey, Patrick & Torrats-Espinosa, Gerard, 2017. "The effect of violent crime on economic mobility," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 22-33.

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    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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