Thomas Goldring

Testing for Changes in the SES-Mortality Gradient When the Distribution of Education Changes Too

with Fabian Lange and Seth Richards-Shubik

Journal of Health Economics (2016), Vol 46, Pages 120-130

Final pre-publication version and data for replication

We develop a flexible test for changes in the SES-mortality gradient that accounts for changes in the distribution of education, the most commonly used marker of SES. We implement the test for the period between 1984 and 2006 in the United States using microdata from the Census and other surveys linked to death records. Using our flexible test, we find that the evidence for a change in the SES-mortality gradient is not as strong as previous research has suggested. Our results indicate that the gradient increased for females during this time period, but we cannot rule out that the gradient among males has not changed. Informally, the results suggest that the changes for females are mainly driven by the bottom of the education distribution.
This paper examines the impact of educational accountability under the No Child Left Behind Act on the intradistrict distribution of school finance in Texas public schools. Rising performance standards over time alter the risk that a school fails to meet target proficiency rates on students' standardized exams. I use the resulting variation in the risk of failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) to identify the causal effect of accountability pressure on changes in per pupil school expenditure and staff inputs. Compared to schools likely to make AYP, the total operating expenditure for schools likely to fail AYP are $140 per pupil less after one year (2008 dollars). The effect rises to $215 for Title I schools. Moreover, the change in total expenditure for schools on the margin to fail AYP are approximately half the magnitude of those likely to fail, suggesting that policymakers impose somewhat less stringent financial penalties for schools that are closer to meeting AYP. The effects are substantial relative to an average annual change in per pupil expenditure of $217, and robust to restricting the sample to larger districts and for estimates over two years. Changes in instructional expenditure primarily account for spending differences across schools. I also find evidence of distributional changes in staffing, including a relative increase in the total number of teachers at schools below or on the AYP margin, which is caused in part by the hiring of additional special education teachers.

The Causal Impact of Graduation Rate Accountability Under No Child Left Behind

In progress, draft available upon request

Does graduation rate accountability affect high school graduation rates? Since the enactment of No Child Left Behind in 2002, all states must include some form of high school graduation rate accountability within the broader accountability system. Using school-level data from Colorado and Illinois, I employ a regression discontinuity design, comparing schools that just failed to make graduation rate Adequate Yearly Progress with schools that just pass. Subsequent graduation rates for schools in Colorado that just fail graduation rate AYP are on average 1-2 percentage points higher. Conversely, schools in Illinois display no such effect.

When Does Accountability Pressure Bite? A Comparison of Methods Used to Estimate the Impact of Accountability Under No Child Left Behind

In progress

A simple linear regression of schools' accountability status on outcomes is likely to be biased because accountability status is endogenous to school outcomes. To credibly estimate the causal effects of performance-based accountability systems, many researchers have used Regression Discontinuity designs to compare schools that just failed accountability against schools that just passed. An alternative approach uses prior outcomes to predict the probability that a school will receive a certain accountability status. In this paper I compare the two methods to determine whether effects based on accountability pressure prior to the determination of the accountability status are comparable to effects after the accountability status is determined.

The Impact of Targeted Education Funds on Achievement Gaps for High-Needs Students: Evidence from California

In progress

In 2013, California passed a new school finance law, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which made sweeping changes to the allocation of district funds. The new formula provides additional funds to districts with high concentrations of high-needs students. For example, when high-needs students make up at least 55 percent of a district's enrollment, districts receive a 'concentration grant' equal to 50 percent of the base funding amount per pupil for every high-needs student above the 55 percent threshold. I exploit this discontinuity in the level of per pupil district expenditure to estimate the effect of targeted funds on student achievement for high-needs students. Using a regression kink design, I also examine whether targeted funds narrow achievement gaps for high-needs students.