1. Re-examining the relationship between patience, risk-taking, and human capital investment across countries (Accepted at the Journal of Applied Econometrics), with Jan Feld, Nicolás Salamanca.

    Hanushek et al. (2022) show that students in countries in which people are more patient and less risk-taking perform better in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test. In this paper, we probe the robustness of this study. Our narrow replication shows that the results are mostly robust to alternative model specifications. Our broad replication shows that the main results are robust to measuring student performance with data from The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) instead of PISA.

    Working Paper: Ungated version (February 2024)

Under review and Submitted

  1. Child Health and Parental Responses to an Unconditional Cash Transfer at Birth (Revise and Resubmit at the Review of Economics and Statistics), with John Lynch, Aurélie Meunier, Rhiannon Pilkington, and Stefanie Schurer.

    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. With population-level administrative data from South Australia and a regression discontinuity design, we find that eligible infants experienced fewer hospital presentations in the first year of life for preventable, acute, and severe problems. In auxiliary analyses using nationally-representative data, we find that the windfall cash allowed parents to increase expenditures on food and groceries, decreased financial stress and hardship, and improved physical and mental health. We calculate that 34% of the pay-out were recouped within the first year through lower health care costs.

    Working Paper: Latest version (October 2023) | IZA (Sep 2021)
    Slides: NBER Summer Institute 2022 (July 2022)

  2. Same-Sex Role Model Effects in Education (Under review), with Jan Feld, Nicolás Salamanca and Ulf Zölitz.

    We study same-sex role model effects of teachers with a meta-analysis and our own study of three million students in 90 countries. Both approaches show that role model effects on performance are, on average, small: 0.030 SD in the meta-analysis and 0.015 SD in our multi-country study. Going beyond test scores, our multi-country study documents larger average role model effects on job preferences (0.063 SD). To understand the universality of these effects, we estimate the distributions of country-level same-sex role model effects. Although role model effects on test scores appear universally small, we find substantial cross-country variation for job preferences, with larger effects in countries with larger gender gaps. These results are consistent with role models inspiring students to overcome gender stereotypes and pursue a STEM career. However, in countries with negligible gender gaps, role models do not seem to have this equalizing function.

    Working Paper: University of Zurich Working Paper No. 438 (June 2023) | Website with interactive results

  3. On the Mechanisms of Ability Peer Effects, with Nicolás Salamanca.

    Studying with higher ability peers increases student achievement, yet we have little idea why. To address this question, we use rich data on students, parents, teachers and school administrators in a setting with mandated random assignment of students to classrooms within schools. Some schools do not comply with this mandate. We develop a novel method to detect cluster violations of random assignment and show its effectiveness to recover a valid quasi-experiment. Our results show positive peer effects on test scores and precisely estimated null effects on 18 potential mechanisms, many of which have been hypothesized but never tested.

    Working Paper: Melbourne Institute (Oct 2020) | IZA (Dec 2020)
    Slides: Econometric Society Australasian Meeting (ESAM) (July 2021)
    Media: The Conversation (Nov 2021) | ABC Radio Sydney Afternoons (15 Nov 2021)

  4. From Subsidies to Loans: The Effects of a National Student Finance Reform on the Choices of Secondary School Students, with Jan Kabátek.

    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: Melbourne Institute (July 2021) | IZA (Aug 2021)

  5. Two Decades of Welfare Reforms in Australia: How Did They Affect Single Mothers and Their Children?, with Stefanie Schurer and Angela Zhang.

    Worldwide, single mothers are profoundly time and income constrained, making them heavily reliant on government transfers. We examine how welfare reforms that introduced mutual obligations affected the economic position of single mothers and the development of their children over the past two decades in Australia. Using nationally representative longitudinal data, we show that disposable incomes of single-mother households were significantly reduced relative to partnered mothers since the 2005 Welfare-to-Work Act came into effect in July 2006, a downward trend that was aggravated by the Global Financial Crisis and the 2013 suspension of grandfathered single parenting payment rules. The reform diminished parenting and family payments for single mothers, who compensated income loss by increasing reliance on disability pension payments, work hours, and child-care expenditures. We then use nationally representative cohort data to estimate the impact of single motherhood on child skill development, following children who entered primary school when their mothers were affected by the Welfare-to-Work reform. We find unadjusted single-motherhood gaps of 0.2 SD in cognitive and 0.3 SD in non-cognitive skills. Non-cognitive skill gaps are only partially explained by differences in observable characteristics, while cognitive skill gaps are fully explained by observable characteristics. Differences in disposable household income between single and partnered mother households explain over 50% of the observed cognitive ability gaps in childhood and 25% in late adolescence. In the presence of positive spillover effects, we propose that welfare payments to vulnerable families may function as a social investment rather than a sunk cost.

    Working Paper: IZA (Sep 2021)

Work in progress

  1. Class Rank and Sibling Spillover Effects

    This paper studies how students’ relative rank affects their younger siblings’ academic performance. Using Dutch administrative data, I exploit within-school, across-cohort variation in student rank. Consistent with previous research, I find that higher-ranked students experience faster human capital accumulation. Yet, these rank effects generate negative spillovers on younger siblings: a one standard deviation increase in rank decreases younger sibling’s test scores by 2 percent of a standard deviation. These spillovers are stronger for same-sex siblings. I show that changes in parental investments and expectations drive part of these spillovers. In particular, I show that migrant parents increase investments in school quality and speaking Dutch at home. My findings highlight that the peer environment creates within-family human capital spillovers.

    Draft: JMP version (31 August 2022)

  2. Integrating Minorities in the Classroom: The Role of Students, Parents and Teachers, with Krzysztof (Chris) Karbownik, Nicolás Salamanca and Yves Zenou.

    We develop and empirically test a theory of integration of minorities in the classroom that incorporates endogenous responses of majority students, their parents, and teachers in these classrooms. Using a unique policy that randomly assigns children to classrooms in Taiwanese middle schools and rich survey data, we show that exposure to Indigenous students lowers the test scores of the majority students. These negative effects are primarily due to the aforementioned endogenous responses rather than direct peer effects. Our theory and results highlights the limitations of the reduced-form interpretation of commonly used linear-in-means peer effect models.

    Status: Draft in preparation.
    Other: Best Paper Award at the 2023 Australian Labour Econometrics Workshop.

  3. Affirmative Action during Early Childhood: School Choice, Academic Performance and School Satisfaction, with Shushanik Margaryan and José Montalban Castilla.

    We estimate the impact of income-based priority points on children’s’ outcomes and parental choices from preschool to Grade 6. With administrative records from Madrid, we use two sharp discontinuities in household income per capita which determine income-based priority points within the Boston mechanism. We first show that income-based priority points change parents’ strategy: low-income parents apply to fewer closer schools and schools with lower absenteeism, while higher-income parents apply to more demanded and higher-scoring schools. The priority points increase the likelihood that children are admitted to their preferred school. Yet, we find economically insignificant effects on standardized test scores 6 years later. Lastly, using a matched survey of parents and children, we find small negative effects on parental and child satisfaction with the school, teachers and peers. Our findings indicate that low and higher-income parents respond in sophisticated but different ways to priority rules under the Boston Mechanism.

    Status: First draft coming soon.

  4. How do teachers respond to smaller classes? Evidence and implications for student learning, with Damon Clark, Pierre Deschamps, and José Montalban Castilla.

    This paper studies how teachers respond to smaller classes and how these responses impact student achievement in the Region of Madrid (Spain), a region of over 1 million school-aged children and 3,000 schools. We exploit the maximum class size rule that generates sharp discontinuities in the relationship between school enrollment and average class size. We estimate the impact of class size reductions on teacher responses and student test scores using regression discontinuity models. We link data covering three key elements at the classroom level: administrative data on student enrollments, administrative data on student test scores and information on teacher responses from teacher survey data covering the universe of teachers and containing rich information on their classroom activities. Our findings shed light on the mechanisms that explain how class size reductions can enhance student learning.

    Status: Preliminary results.

  5. College Information Provision to Disadvantaged Youth, with Gloria Chen and Siqi Pan.
    Status: Designing field intervention and recruiting participants in the field.