Class Rank and Sibling Spillover Effects (Job-Market Paper)
Siblings are perhaps the most important childhood peers, yet we know little about sibling spillover effects on school achievement and their potential mechanisms. I estimate the effect of children’s rank in primary school on their younger sibling’s schooling outcomes using administrative records from the Netherlands. In this setting, variation in sibling rank is credibly exogenous and isolates sibling spillovers driven by behavioral and psychological mechanisms, as opposed to direct transmission of human capital. A 1SD increase in child rank in test scores increases their younger sibling’s test scores by 4.3 percent of a standard deviation, showing that behavioral mechanisms in sibling spillovers are empirically relevant. Child rank also increases the chance that their sibling is recommended for the academic school track by 5 percent, even after accounting for younger sibling’s test scores. This recommendation is given exclusively by teachers, suggesting that teachers track children based on arguably meaningless information on their siblings. I argue that this is a form of teacher bias in expectation formation and show that it only occurs for non-migrant children. This points towards cultural proximity as an important factor in the formation of biased expectations, widening achievement gaps between migrant and non-migrant children. Overall, my findings show that school inputs can be important drivers of within-family human capital spillovers.
Submitted and Under Review
-  On the Mechanisms of Ability Peer Effects, with Nicolás Salamanca.
- Abstract: Studying with higher ability peers increases student performance, yet we have little idea why. We exploit mandated random assignment of students to classrooms and find positive peer effects on test scores. With rich data on nineteen potential mechanisms, we then estimate how effects on attitudes, parents, and teachers could drive these results. Higher-achieving peers reduce student effort, increase student university aspirations, increase parental time investments and parental strictness, and have precise null effects elsewhere. None of these mechanisms, however, explain our peer effect on test scores. Our novel method to detect cluster violations of random assignment is of independent interest.
- Working Paper:
-  Child Health and Parental Responses to an Unconditional Cash Transfer at Birth, with John Lynch, Aurélie Meunier, Rhiannon Pilkington, and Stefanie Schurer.
- Abstract: We estimate the impact on child health of the unanticipated introduction of the Australian Baby Bonus, a $3,000 one-off unconditional cash transfer at birth. Using regression discontinuity methods and linked administrative data from South Australia, we find that treated babies had fewer preventable, acute, and urgent hospital presentations—medical care available without co-payments—in the first two years of life. The payment later increased demand for elective care, which requires planning, medical referrals, and often co-payments. Our effects are strongest for disadvantaged families. Our findings suggest that up to 34% of the payout were recouped within the first year.
- Draft: Available here.
- Working Paper: Coming soon.
-  From Subsidies to Loans: The Effects of a National Student Finance Reform on the Choices of Secondary School Students, with Jan Kabátek.
- Abstract: We analyse the effects of a national student finance reform in the Netherlands, which replaced universal subsidies for higher education students by low-interest loans. We show that this reform had a large impact on education choices of secondary school students, lowering their enrolments in college-preparing tracks and increasing the share of students specializing in STEM subjects. The reform also affected the living arrangements of new college entrants. Our findings highlight that secondary school students respond to the modes of higher education financing well ahead of their graduation, and that financial aid uncertainty alone can deter many from pursuing higher education.
- Working Paper:
-  Quantifying Aspirational Poverty Traps, with Nicolás Salamanca.
- Description: We propose a simple methodology based on a microeconomic model of human capital investment with goals and threshold regression methods to estimate the size and location in the population of aspirational poverty traps. We apply our methodology to the United States using the NLSY79 and find that 5.5 to 7% of the population, around the 37th percentile of wealth, could be located in such poverty traps.
- Status: Draft in preparation.
-  The Impact of Low-Income Priorities Points on School Choice and Student Outcomes, with Shushanik Margaryan and José Montalban Castilla.
- Status: Preliminary Results. To be presented by José at the IZA 2021 Junior/Senior Symposium!