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The Effect of School Finance Reforms on the Distribution of Spending, Academic Achievement, and Adult Outcomes

June 27, 2014 Comments off

The Effect of School Finance Reforms on the Distribution of Spending, Academic Achievement, and Adult Outcomes (PDF)
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research

The school finance reforms (SFRs) that began in the early 1970s and accelerated in the 1980s caused some of the most dramatic changes in the structure of K–12 education spending in U.S. history. We analyze the effects of these reforms on the level and distribution of school district spending, as well as their effects on subsequent educational and economic outcomes.

In Part One, using a newly compiled database of school finance reforms and a recently available long panel of annual school district data on per-pupil spending that spans 1967–2010, we present an event-study analysis of the effects of different types of school finance reforms on per-pupil spending in low- and high-income school districts. We find that SFRs have been instrumental in equalizing school spending between low- and high-income districts and many reforms do so by increasing spending for poor districts. While all reforms reduce spending inequality, there are important differences by reform type: adequacy-based court-ordered reforms increase overall school spending, while equity-based court-ordered reforms reduce the variance of spending with little effect on overall levels; reforms that entail high tax prices (the amount of taxes a district must raise to increase spending by one dollar) reduce long-run spending for all districts, and those that entail low tax prices lead to increased spending growth, particularly for low-income districts.

In Part Two, we link the spending and reform data to detailed, nationally-representative data on children born between 1955 and 1985 and followed through 2011 (the Panel Study of Income Dynamics) to study the effect of the reform-induced changes in school spending on long-run adult outcomes. These birth cohorts straddle the period in which most of the major school finance reform litigation accelerated, and thus the cohorts were differentially exposed, depending on place and year of birth. We use the timing of the passage of court-mandated reforms as an exogenous shifter of school spending across cohorts within the same district. Event-study and instrumental variable models reveal that a 20 percent increase in per-pupil spending each year for all 12 years of public school for children from poor families leads to about 0.9 more completed years of education, 25 percent higher earnings, and a 20 percentage-point reduction in the annual incidence of adult poverty; we find no effects for children from non-poor families. The magnitudes of these effects are sufficiently large to eliminate between two-thirds and all of the gaps in these adult outcomes between those raised in poor families and those raised in non-poor families. We present several pieces of evidence to support a causal interpretation of the estimates.

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Declining Migration within the U.S.: The Role of the Labor Market

April 29, 2014 Comments off

Declining Migration within the U.S.: The Role of the Labor Market (PDF)
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research (via U.S. Census Bureau)

Interstate migration has decreased steadily since the 1980s. We show that this trend is not primarily related to demographic and socioeconomic factors, but instead appears to be connected to a concurrent secular decline in labor market transitions. We explore a number of reasons for the declines in geographic and labor market transitions, and find the strongest support for explanations related to a decrease in the net benefit to changing employers. Our preferred interpretation is that the distribution of relevant outside offers has shifted in a way that has made labor market transitions, and thus geographic transitions, less desirable to workers.

The “Amazon Tax”: Empirical Evidence From Amazon and Main Street Retailers

April 24, 2014 Comments off

The “Amazon Tax”: Empirical Evidence From Amazon and Main Street Retailers (PDF)
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research

Several states have recently implemented laws requiring the collection of sales tax on online purchases. In practice, however, only Amazon.com has been affected. We find that households living in these states reduce Amazon expenditures by 9.5%, implying an elasticity of –1.3. We find the effect to be more pronounced for large purchases, for which we estimate an elasticity of –3.2. Further, we find that the decline in Amazon purchases is offset by a 2.0% increase in purchases at local brick-and-mortar retailers and a 19.8% increase in purchases at the online operations of competing retailers.

See also: An Analysis of Internet Sales Taxation and the Small Seller Exemption (U.S. Small Business Administration)

Age and Scientific Genius

March 5, 2014 Comments off

Age and Scientific Genius
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research

Great scientific output typically peaks in middle age. A classic literature has emphasized comparisons across fields in the age of peak performance. More recent work highlights large underlying variation in age and creativity patterns, where the average age of great scientific contributions has risen substantially since the early 20th Century and some scientists make pioneering contributions much earlier or later in their life-cycle than others. We review these literatures and show how the nexus between age and great scientific insight can inform the nature of creativity, the mechanisms of scientific progress, and the design of institutions that support scientists, while providing further insights about the implications of aging populations, education policies, and economic growth.

The Role of Health in Retirement

February 24, 2014 Comments off

The Role of Health in Retirement
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research

This paper constructs and estimates a dynamic model of the evolution of health for those over the age of 50 and then embeds that model of health dynamics in a structural, econometric model of retirement and saving.

The health model traces the effects of smoking, obesity, alcohol consumption, depression and other proclivities on medical conditions, including hypertension, diabetes, cancer, lung disease, heart problems, stroke, psychiatric problems and arthritis. These in turn influence an overall index of health status based on self-reported health, work limitations and ADLs, which is used to classify the population into good, fair, poor or terrible health.

Compared to a situation where the entire population is in good health, the current health status of the population reduces the retirement age of the entire population by an average of about one year. While poor health or terrible health have a great impact on the disutility of work and thus on retirement, fair health as opposed to good health has a relatively minor effect. Smoking depresses full-time work effort by up to 3.5 percentage points by those in the early sixties, reducing the average retirement age by four to five months. Effects of trends in health care and health policies on retirement are also analyzed.

Including detailed measurement of health dynamics in a retirement model improves understanding of the effects of health on retirement. It does not, however, influence estimates of the marginal effects of economic incentives on retirement.

Subways, Strikes, and Slowdowns: The Impacts of Public Transit on Traffic Congestion

January 24, 2014 Comments off

Subways, Strikes, and Slowdowns: The Impacts of Public Transit on Traffic Congestion (PDF)
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research

Public transit accounts for only 1% of U.S. passenger miles traveled but nevertheless attracts strong public support. Using a simple choice model, we predict that transit riders are likely to be individuals who commute along routes with the most severe roadway delays. These individuals’ choices thus have very high marginal impacts on congestion. We test this prediction with data from a sudden strike in 2003 by Los Angeles transit workers. Estimating a regression discontinuity design, we find that average highway delay increases 47% when transit service ceases. This effect is consistent with our model’s predictions and many times larger than earlier estimates, which have generally concluded that public transit provides minimal congestion relief. We find that the net benefits of transit systems appear to be much larger than previously believed.

Media Influences on Social Outcomes: The Impact of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing

January 15, 2014 Comments off

Media Influences on Social Outcomes: The Impact of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing (PDF)
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research

This paper explores how specific media images affect adolescent attitudes and outcomes. The specific context examined is the widely viewed MTV franchise, 16 and Pregnant, a series of reality TV shows including the Teen Mom sequels, which follow the lives of pregnant teenagers during the end of their pregnancy and early days of motherhood. We investigate whether the show influenced teens’ interest in contraceptive use or abortion, and whether it ultimately altered teen childbearing outcomes. We use data from Google Trends and Twitter to document changes in searches and tweets resulting from the show, Nielsen ratings data to capture geographic variation in viewership, and Vital Statistics birth data to measure changes in teen birth rates. We find that 16 and Pregnant led to more searches and tweets regarding birth control and abortion, and ultimately led to a 5.7 percent reduction in teen births in the 18 months following its introduction. This accounts for around one-third of the overall decline in teen births in the United States during that period.

The Impacts of Expanding Access to High-Quality Preschool Education

December 24, 2013 Comments off

The Impacts of Expanding Access to High-Quality Preschool Education (PDF)
Source: Brookings Institution/National Bureau of Economic Research

President Obama’s “Preschool for All” initiative calls for dramatic increases in the number of 4 year olds enrolled in public preschool programs and in the quality of these programs nationwide. The proposed program shares many characteristics with the universal preschools that have been offered in Georgia and Oklahoma since the 1990s. This study draws together data from multiple sources to estimate the impacts of these “model” state programs on preschool enrollment and a broad set of family and child outcomes. We find that the state programs have increased the preschool enrollment rates of children from lower- and higher-income families alike. For lower-income families, our findings also suggest that the programs have increased the amount of time mothers and children spend together on activities such as reading, the chances that mothers work, and children’s test performance as late as eighth grade. For higher-income families, however, we find that the programs have shifted children from private to public preschools, resulting in less of an impact on overall enrollment but a reduction in childcare expenses, and have had no positive effect on children’s later test scores.

Understanding Media Markets in the Digital Age: Economics and Methodology

December 12, 2013 Comments off

Understanding Media Markets in the Digital Age: Economics and Methodology (PDF)
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research

Digitization raises a variety of important academic and managerial questions around firm strategies and public policies for the content industries, with many of these questions influenced by the erosion of copyright caused by Internet file-sharing. At the same time, digitization has created many new opportunities to empirically analyze these questions by leveraging new data sources and abundant natural experiments in media markets.

In this chapter we describe the open “big picture” questions related to digitization and the copyright industries, and discuss methodological approaches to leverage the new data and natural experiments in digital markets to address these questions. We close our chapter with a specific proof of concept research study that analyzes an important academic and managerial question — the impact of legitimate streaming services on the demand for piracy. We use ABC’s decision to add its content to Hulu.com as a natural experiment and show that it resulted in an economically and statistically significant drop in piracy of that content.

The Size of the LGBT Population and the Magnitude of Anti-Gay Sentiment are Substantially Underestimated

November 25, 2013 Comments off

The Size of the LGBT Population and the Magnitude of Anti-Gay Sentiment are Substantially Underestimated (PDF)
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research

Measuring sexual orientation, behavior, and related opinions is difficult because responses are biased towards socially acceptable answers. We test whether measurements are biased even when responses are private and anonymous and use our results to identify sexuality-related norms and how they vary. We run an experiment on 2,516 U.S. participants. Participants were randomly assigned to either a “best practices method” that was computer-based and provides privacy and anonymity, or to a “veiled elicitation method” that further conceals individual responses. Answers in the veiled method preclude inference about any particular individual, but can be used to accurately estimate statistics about the population. Comparing the two methods shows sexuality-related questions receive biased responses even under current best practices, and, for many questions, the bias is substantial. The veiled method increased self-reports of non-heterosexual identity by 65% (p<0.05) and same-sex sexual experiences by 59% (p<0.01). The veiled method also increased the rates of anti-gay sentiment. Respondents were 67% more likely to express disapproval of an openly gay manager at work (p<0.01) and 71% more likely to say it is okay to discriminate against lesbian, gay, or bisexual individuals (p<0.01). The results show non-heterosexuality and anti-gay sentiment are substantially underestimated in existing surveys, and the privacy afforded by current best practices is not always sufficient to eliminate bias. Finally, our results identify two social norms: it is perceived as socially undesirable both to be open about being gay, and to be unaccepting of gay individuals.

The Medium-Term Impacts of High-Achieving Charter Schools on Non-Test Score Outcomes

November 25, 2013 Comments off

The Medium-Term Impacts of High-Achieving Charter Schools on Non-Test Score Outcomes (PDF)
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research

High-performing charter schools can significantly increase the test scores of poor urban students. It is unclear whether these test score gains translate into improved outcomes later in life. We estimate the effects of high-performing charter schools on human capital, risky behaviors, and health outcomes using survey data from the Promise Academy in the Harlem Children’s Zone. Six years after the random admissions lottery, youth offered admission to the Promise Academy middle school score 0.283 standard deviations higher on a nationally-normed math achievement test and are 14.1 percentage points more likely to enroll in college. Admitted females are 12.1 percentage points less likely to be pregnant in their teens, and males are 4.3 percentage points less likely to be incarcerated. We find little impact of the Promise Academy on self-reported health. We conclude with speculative evidence that high-performing schools may be sufficient to significantly improve human capital and reduce certain risky behaviors among the poor.

In Whom We Trust: The Role of Certification Agencies in Online Drug Markets

November 13, 2013 Comments off

In Whom We Trust: The Role of Certification Agencies in Online Drug Markets (PDF)
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research (via Ginger Zhe Jin, University of Maryland)

This paper uses an audit sample and a consumer survey to study the intriguing market of online prescription drugs facing US customers, and assesses the role that certification agencies play in online drug markets.

On the supply side, we acquire samples of five popular brand-name prescription drugs from three types of online pharmacies: tier 1 are US-based and certified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) or LegitScript.com, tier 2 are certified by PharmacyChecker.com or the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA) but not by NABP or LegitScript, tier 3 are not certified by any of the four agencies. Most tier 2 and tier 3 websites are foreign. We find that 37 of the 365 delivered samples are different from the products we ordered and therefore non-testable. Conditional on testable samples, Raman spectrometry test finds no failure of authenticity except for 8 Viagra samples from tier-3 websites. After controlling for testability and authenticity, tier 2 websites are 49.2% cheaper (p<0.01) and tier 3 websites are 54.8% cheaper (p<0.01) than tier 1 sites. These differences are driven by non-Viagra drugs. For Viagra, failing samples are cheaper but there is no significant price difference across tiers once we condition on testability and authenticity.

To study the demand side, we designed a survey that was distributed by RxRights. Among the 2,522 respondents who have purchased prescription medication and are concerned about the price of US pharmaceuticals, results show that 61.54% purchase drugs online and mostly from foreign websites, citing cost saving as the leading reason. Conditional on shopping online, 41.11% check with a credentialing agency.

Both samples convey a consistent message that certification agencies deliver useful information for foreign websites and online consumers. Further, while these findings confirm the FDA warning against rogue websites, they do suggest that a blanket ban against all foreign websites may deny consumers substantial savings from certified tier 2 websites.

The Data Revolution and Economic Analysis

November 12, 2013 Comments off

The Data Revolution and Economic Analysis
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research (via Stanford University)

Many believe that “big data” will transform business, government and other aspects of the economy. In this article we discuss how new data may impact economic policy and economic research. Large-scale administrative datasets and proprietary private sector data can greatly improve the way we measure, track and describe economic activity. They also can enable novel research designs that allow researchers to trace the consequences of different events or policies. We outline some of the challenges in accessing and making use of these data. We also consider whether the big data predictive modeling tools that have emerged in statistics and computer science may prove useful in economics.

The Decision to Delay Social Security Benefits: Theory and Evidence

November 8, 2013 Comments off

Recent changes in the gains from delaying Social Security (PDF)
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research

Social Security benefits may be commenced at any time between age 62 and age 70. As individuals who claim later can, on average, expect to receive benefits for a shorter period, an actuarial adjustment is made to the monthly benefit amount to reflect the age at which benefits are claimed. We investigate the actuarial fairness of this adjustment. Our simulations suggest that delaying is actuarially advantageous for a large subset of people, particularly for real interest rates of 3.5 percent or below. The gains from delaying are greater at lower interest rates, for married couples relative to singles, for single women relative to single men, and for two-earner couples relative to one-earner couples. In a two-earner couple, the gains from deferring the primary earner’s benefit are greater than the gains from deferring the secondary earner’s benefit. We then use panel data from the Health and Retirement Study to investigate whether individuals’ actual claiming behavior appears to be influenced by the degree of actuarial advantage to delaying. We find no evidence of a consistent relationship between claiming behavior and factors that influence the actuarial advantage of delay, including gender and marital status, interest rates, subjective discount rates, or subjective assessments of life expectancy.

Searching for Physical and Digital Media: The Evolution of Platforms for Finding Books

November 8, 2013 Comments off

Searching for Physical and Digital Media: The Evolution of Platforms for Finding Books (PDF)
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research

This paper provides a data-driven overview of the different online platforms that consumers use to search for books and booksellers, and documents how the use of these platforms is shifting over time. Our data suggest that, as a result of digitization, consumers are increasingly conducting searches for books at retailer sites and closed systems (e.g., the Kindle and Nook) rather than at general search engines (e.g., Google or Bing). We also highlight a number of challenges that will make it difficult for researchers to accurately measure internet-based search behavior in the years to come. Finally, we highlight a number of open agenda items related to the pricing of books and other digital media, as well as consumer search behavior.

Strategic Parenting, Birth Order and School Performance

October 23, 2013 Comments off

Strategic Parenting, Birth Order and School Performance (PDF)
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research

Fueled by new evidence, there has been renewed interest about the effects of birth order on human capital accumulation. The underlying causal mechanisms for such effects remain unsettled. We consider a model in which parents impose more stringent disciplinary environments in response to their earlier-born children’s poor performance in school in order to deter such outcomes for their later-born offspring. We provide robust empirical evidence that school performance of children in the NLSY-C declines with birth order as does the stringency of their parents’ disciplinary restrictions. And, when asked how they will respond if a child brought home bad grades, parents state that they would be less likely to punish their later-born children. Taken together, these patterns are consistent with a reputation model of strategic parenting.

What are We Not Doing When We’re Online?

October 23, 2013 Comments off

What are We Not Doing When We’re Online? (PDF)
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research

The Internet has radically transformed the way we live our lives. The net changes in consumer surplus and economic activity, however, are difficult to measure because some online activities, such as obtaining news, are new ways of doing old activities while new activities, like social media, have an opportunity cost in terms of activities crowded out. This paper uses data from the American Time Use Survey from 2003 – 2011 to estimate the crowdout effects of leisure time spent online. That data show that time spent online and the share of the population engaged in online activities has been increasing steadily. I find that, on the margin, each minute of online leisure time is correlated with 0.29 fewer minutes on all other types of leisure, with about half of that coming from time spent watching TV and video, 0.05 minutes from (offline) socializing, 0.04 minutes from relaxing and thinking, and the balance from time spent at parties, attending cultural events, and listening to the radio. Each minute of online leisure is also correlated with 0.27 fewer minutes working, 0.12 fewer minutes sleeping, 0.10 fewer minutes in travel time, 0.07 fewer minutes in household activities, and 0.06 fewer minutes in educational activities.

Spousal Health Effects – the Role of Selection

September 24, 2013 Comments off

Spousal Health Effects – the Role of Selection
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research (via SSRN)

In this paper, we investigate the issue of partner selection in the health of individuals who are at least fifty years old in England and the United States. We find a strong and positive association in family background variables including education of partners and their parents. Adult health behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and exercise are more positively associated in England compared to the United States. Childhood health indicators are also positively associated across partners. We also investigated pre and post partnership smoking behavior of couples. There exists strong positive assortative mating in smoking in that smokers are much more likely to partner with smokers and non-smokers with non-smokers. This relationship is far stronger in England compared to the United States. In the United States, we find evidence of asymmetric partner influence in smoking in that men’s pre marriage smoking behavior influences his female partner’s post marriage smoking behavior but there does not appear to be a parallel influence of women’s pre-marriage smoking on their male partner’s post-marital smoking. These relationships are much more parallel across genders in England.

State Incentives for Innovation, Star Scientists and Jobs: Evidence from Biotech

August 29, 2013 Comments off

State Incentives for Innovation, Star Scientists and Jobs: Evidence from Biotech (PDF)
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research

We evaluate the effects of state-provided financial incentives for biotech companies, which are part of a growing trend of placed-based policies designed to spur innovation clusters. We estimate that the adoption of subsidies for biotech employers by a state raises the number of star biotech scientists in that state by about 15 percent over a three year period. A 10% decline in the user cost of capital induced by an increase in R&D tax incentives raises the number of stars by 22%. Most of the gains are due to the relocation of star scientist to adopting states, with limited effect on the productivity of incumbent scientists already in the state. The gains are concentrated among private sector inventors. We uncover little effect of subsidies on academic researchers, consistent with the fact that their incentives are unaffected. Our estimates indicate that the effect on overall employment in the biotech sector is of comparable magnitude to that on star scientists. Consistent with a model where workers are fairly mobile across states, we find limited effects on salaries in the industry. We uncover large effects on employment in the non-traded sector due to a sizable multiplier effect, with the largest impact on employment in construction and retail. Finally, we find mixed evidence of a displacement effect on states that are geographically close, or states that economically close as measured by migration flows.

The Determinants of Mismatch Between Students and Colleges

August 13, 2013 Comments off

The Determinants of Mismatch Between Students and Colleges (PDF)
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research (via author)

We use the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 cohort to examine mismatch between student ability and college quality. Mismatch has implications for the design of state higher education systems and for student aid policy. The data indicate substantial amounts of both undermatch (high ability students at low quality colleges) and overmatch (low ability students at high quality colleges). Student application and enrollment decisions, rather than college admission decisions, drive most mismatch. Financial constraints, information, and the public college options facing each student all affect the probability of mismatch. More informed students attend higher quality colleges, even when doing so involves overmatching.

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