Job-Market Paper

Class Rank and Sibling Spillover Effects

    Abstract:

    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, where pupils leave primary school with a national standardized test score and a tracking recommendation. Variation in class rank conditional on ability and on cohort-by-school fixed effects is credibly exogenous in this setting, and isolates sibling spillovers driven by behavioral and psychological mechanisms, as opposed to direct transmission of human capital. A 1SD increase in child rank decreases their younger sibling’s test scores in Dutch by 2.1% standard deviation and in Math by 2.6% standard deviation. I explore parental investments, teacher expectations and sibling interactions as mechanisms. In particular, I show that child rank decreases the likelihood that younger siblings attend the same school. For families of non-Western migration background, younger siblings attend slightly higher quality schools. I further show that child rank also increases by 0.8 percentage point (2.7 percent) the likelihood that their sibling’s teacher recommends the Vocational school track for Dutch-born children, while they are 1.2 percentage point more likely to recommend the Academic track for children of Western migration background. These findings indicate that teachers imperfectly update their expectations about children, which ultimately widens achievement gaps. Overall, my findings show that school inputs can be important drivers of within-family human capital spillovers.


Submitted and Under Review

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.

    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.


  • [2] 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.

    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.


  • [3] 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.

    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.


Ongoing Projects

  • [1] Quantifying Aspirational Poverty Traps, with Nicolás Salamanca.
    • Status: Draft in preparation.
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.

    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.



  • [3] 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!