The Interaction of Families and Schools in Education Production
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
The first paper in the session studies the assignment of students to the teachers that have previously taught their older sibling. It finds strong evidence for non-random sorting of students to their older sibling’s teachers, and documents that relatively advantaged, non-minority students are significantly more likely to be assigned to their older sibling’s teacher when that teacher is higher quality than disadvantaged, minority students in the same school, grade and year. These findings highlight gaps in access to high quality teachers within the same school by family income and race that have important implications for equity and the effectiveness of school-level policies designed to close achievement gaps.
While the first paper investigates the assignment of siblings to the same teachers within schools, the second paper investigates the causal effects of older siblings attending a higher-quality high school on the contemporaneous achievement and academic behaviors of younger siblings in Mexico City. This study finds that the younger siblings’ math scores improve significantly when the older sibling attends a high school with higher value-added in math. There are no discernible changes in the younger siblings’ study habits or parental investments suggesting that the academic gains stem from having a more able older sibling who can assist the younger child with his/her learning.
The third paper investigates whether students’ education choices and outcomes are affected by a survey including questions related to expectations and forward-looking behavior administered to parents. While there are no significant effects of the parental survey on education outcomes overall, the study finds that it increases the educational attainment for children whose parents have low education. The study also investigates spillover effects of the survey on the younger siblings which suggests that increased parental awareness and investments are an important mechanism behind the effect found.
A unifying theme of the work in this panel is that policies and decisions about education investments must also consider how these choices interact with family decisions and structure since these can significantly amplify and/or dampen their effects. The work in this panel also highlights evidence that policies that affect student achievement have important spillover effects on their siblings which has important implications for the evaluation of programs and their cost-benefit analysis. This is a particularly good fit for APPAM this year when the conference theme is that measurement matters. Many current analyses and policy discussions focus mainly or solely on the direct effects of programs and school inputs on student achievement and ignore spillover effects within the family which lead to significant underestimates of the total effects of these programs.