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Using Maimonides' Rule to Estimate the Effect of Class Size on Student Achievement

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  • Joshua D. Angrist
  • Victor Lavy

Abstract

The effect of class size on student achievement has long been of concern to educators, parents, and scholars. In Israeli public schools today, class size is partly determined using a rule proposed by Maimonides in the 12th century. This rule induces a nonlinear and non-monotonic relationship between enroll- ment size and class size. We use this relationship to construct instrumental variables estimates of the effect of class size on the test scores of Israeli 4th and 5th graders in 1991 and 3rd graders in 1992. Because the up-and-down pattern in class size induced by Maimonides' rule matches a similar pattern in test scores, the rule provides a credible source of exogenous variation for investigation of the causal effect of class size on student achievement. Our use of Maimonides' rule can be viewed as an application of Campbell's (1969) regression-discontinuity design to the class size question. The results of this application show that reductions in class size induce a significant increase in reading and math scores for 5th graders and a smaller increase in reading scores for 4th graders. In contrast, there is little evidence of any association between class size and the test scores of 3rd graders, although this finding may result from problems with the 1992 wave of the testing program. The estimates also suggest that the gains from small classes are largest for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Besides being of metho- dological interest and providing new evidence on the class size question, these findings are of immediate policy interest in Israel where legislation to reduce the maximum class size is pending.

Suggested Citation

  • Joshua D. Angrist & Victor Lavy, 1997. "Using Maimonides' Rule to Estimate the Effect of Class Size on Student Achievement," NBER Working Papers 5888, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5888
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Vincent Boucher & Yann Bramoullé & Habiba Djebbari & Bernard Fortin, 2014. "Do Peers Affect Student Achievement? Evidence From Canada Using Group Size Variation," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 29(1), pages 91-109, January.
    2. Weili Ding & Steven F. Lehrer, 2007. "Do Peers Affect Student Achievement in China's Secondary Schools?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(2), pages 300-312, May.
    3. Joshua D. Angrist & Kevin Lang, 2002. "How Important are Classroom Peer Effects? Evidence from Boston's Metco Program," NBER Working Papers 9263, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Jeff Borland & Yi-Ping Tseng & Roger Wilkins, 2005. "Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Methods of Microeconomic Program and Policy Evaluation," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2005n08, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
    5. Chen, Susan & van der Klaauw, Wilbert, 2008. "The work disincentive effects of the disability insurance program in the 1990s," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 757-784, February.
    6. Joshua Angrist & Victor Lavy, 2002. "New Evidence on Classroom Computers and Pupil Learning," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(482), pages 735-765, October.
    7. Das, Jishnu & Dercon, Stefan & Habyarimana, James & Krishnan, Pramila, 2004. "When can school inputs improve test scores?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3217, The World Bank.
    8. Alan B. Krueger, 2003. "Economic Considerations and Class Size," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(485), pages 34-63, February.
    9. Joshua Angrist, 2005. "Instrumental Variables Methods in Experimental Criminological Research: What, Why, and How?," NBER Technical Working Papers 0314, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Gaviria Alejandro & Alejandro Hoyos, 2008. "Determinantes de los resultados de las evaluaciones de profesores: el caso de la Universidad de los Andes," REVISTA DESARROLLO Y SOCIEDAD, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE, March.
    11. Goulas, Sofoklis & Megalokonomou, Rigissa, 2016. "Swine Flu and The Effect of Compulsory Class Attendance on Academic Performance," MPRA Paper 75395, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Do, Quy-Toan & Phung, Tung Duc, 2006. "Superstition, family planning, and human development," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4001, The World Bank.
    13. Concetta, MENDOLICCHIO, 2006. "A Disaggregate Analysis of Private Returns to Education in Italy," Discussion Papers (ECON - Département des Sciences Economiques) 2006054, Université catholique de Louvain, Département des Sciences Economiques.
    14. Joshua D. Angrist & Kevin Lang, 2004. "Does School Integration Generate Peer Effects? Evidence from Boston's Metco Program," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1613-1634, December.
    15. Thomas Dee & Martin West, 2008. "The Non-Cognitive Returns to Class Size," NBER Working Papers 13994, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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