Panel Paper: The Effect of Stop and Frisk on Student Test Scores

Friday, November 3, 2017
Water Tower (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jacob William Faber, Chantal Annise Hailey and Jessica Kalbfeld, New York University

Education is widely recognized as a major factor in racial inequality. Scholars have drawn attention to the roles of segregation, constraints related to poverty, and differences in summer learning, among other potential mechanisms in explaining dramatic racial disparities across a host of outcomes. This study investigates a heretofore understudied contributor to educational outcomes: community-level law enforcement activity. Specifically, we measure the effects of neighborhood-level Stop, Question, and Frisk (SQF) activity in New York City in the early Twenty First Century on student attendance and academic achievement.

There has been significant attention paid to the over-policing of neighborhoods in both the scholarly and popular press. SQF—ubiquitous in many neighborhoods—has been shown to have a disproportionate effect on residents and communities of color, constituting a “chronic stressor” for adults who live in neighborhoods that experience heavy use of the tactic. There are psychological and health impacts associated with direct and indirect contact with the criminal justice system, and with being a member of a targeted minority while living in a neighborhood with high levels of SQF activity.

Just as violence in neighborhoods is associated with negative impacts on children’s test scores and neighborhood stressors have been shown to effect sleep and stress levels, thereby, potentially impacting academic achievement, we hypothesize that the stress associated with higher levels of SQF in a child’s neighborhood of residence net of crime will be associated with academic outcomes of interest. We explore the extent to which SQF volume net of crime in students’ residential neighborhoods and in the areas surrounding their schools predicts attendance rates and test scores. We pair publicly available data on SQF and crime with student-level demographic and residential data, attendance records, and test scores to explore the relationships between SQF and student-level outcomes. We then estimate the aggregate effects of racially- and spatially-disproportionate policing practices on observed racial disparities in educational outcomes.