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The Effects of Local Violent Crime on High-Stakes Tests


  • Eunsik Chang

    () (Department of Economics, University of Tennessee)

  • María Padilla-Romo

    () (Department of Economics, University of Tennessee)


Random shocks to cognitive performance on high-stakes standardized tests have long-lasting consequences, particularly when test results are used as the sole mechanism to determine school admissions. This study considers the effects of exposure to local violent crime on high-stakes standardized test outcomes in the context of Mexico City’s centralized high school admission system. To do so, we exploit within-school variation in exposure to local violent crime over time. Our results show that exposure to violent crime reduces test scores for female students but not for males, leading to a gender biased high school placement. That is, female students’ test scores decrease by 11 percent of a standard deviation after the exposure to violent crime occurring within 0.1 miles of their school during the week before the test, and approximately 19 percent of those students are assigned to less-preferred high schools than the ones to which they would have been assigned otherwise. The effect is highly localized both in time and geographic proximity, suggesting that temporary psychological harm is one of the main mechanisms through which exposure to violent crime affects cognitive performance.

Suggested Citation

  • Eunsik Chang & María Padilla-Romo, 2019. "The Effects of Local Violent Crime on High-Stakes Tests," Working Papers 2019-03, University of Tennessee, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ten:wpaper:2019-03

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    Inequality; Violent crime; High-stakes tests; Gender inequality; Psychological well-being;

    JEL classification:

    • I14 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Inequality
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • I25 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Economic Development

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