Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: The Causal Effect of Single-Sex Schooling on Education and Crime for Low-Achieving Students

Friday, November 13, 2015 : 10:15 AM
Tuttle North (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Kirabo Jackson, Northwestern University
Recent research shows that boys and girls often react differently to educational interventions and educational contexts. Also some studies find that, in certain contexts, males and females have better academic performance when exposed to more same sex peers in the classroom (Whitmore 2005, Lu and Anderson 2015). These findings coupled with the fact that certain education related problems appear to be gender specific (e.g. males are disproportionately likely to have behavior problems in school, and females tend to avoid pursuing mathematics and science careers) have led some to advocate for the expansion of single sex education. This paper presents the first analysis of a large-scale policy to expand single sex public school education. Specifically, this paper analyzes a policy experiment in Trinidad and Tobago where twenty low-performing coeducational school were converted to single sex.

In 2010 the Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of Education (MOE) identified 10 pairs (20 in total) of low-performing coeducational public secondary schools, and selected one in each pair to be converted to all-boys and the other to be converted to all-girls. The transition to single-sex schooling was gradual such that the incoming 6thgrade cohorts after 2010 were single sex while the previously admitted cohorts remained coed. The selected schools had no control over this decision so that these changes were exogenous to any within school changes over time. Because this experiment allows for the comparison of students who attended the same school under both coeducational and single-sex regimes, this allows one to isolate the effect of adopting a single-sex policy from that of other unobserved differences that might exist between coeducational and single sex schools. I link student admission records prior to secondary school entry to national examination data taken three years later to analyze the effect of single sex education on academic outcomes. I supplement these administrative data with survey data collected during the policy experiment to present evidence on mechanisms. Finally, I link the admissions data with arrest records to present the first analysis of the effect of single sex education on crime.

To identify the effect of the transition from coed to single sex holding other school inputs and practices constant (i.e. a single sex effect), I compare the outcomes of cohorts who attended the same secondary school at the same time but who were admitted under coed versus single-sex regimes. While this transition allows one to hold other school inputs fixed, it does not ensure that the student populations are comparable across cohorts. To address this concern, I exploit the fact that schools in Trinidad and Tobago assign students to secondary schools based on a known algorithm (Jackson 2010). I exploit discontinuities in the school assignment rules to isolate exogenous variation in school attendance and remove bias due to student selection to schools.
Preliminary results indicate reveal large positive effects on both boys’ and girls’ academic achievement, reductions in high school dropout for girls and reductions in crime for boys.

Full Paper: