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Analyzing Student and Family-Level Effects on a Family’s Contributions to Fund a College Education

By Justin T. Rosenblum and John H. Zipf

We investigate the efficiency of the current financial aid system for prospective college students. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form reviews a family’s financial information and universities review a student’s academic prowess, but neither fully examines students and their family’s qualitative factors such as parents’ highest education level or intended major. Using the National Center for Education Statistics’ National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, we investigate academic, financial, and familial characteristics to determine if they impact a student’s level of private loans relative to their total cost of attendance. We find that students with parents who did not receive a college degree are adversely affected by the current financial aid system. In particular, these students take out a greater amount of private loans relative to their total cost of attendance all else equal. Our finding has wider policy implications; changing the current financial aid system to assist disadvantaged students could help reduce intergenerational education inequalities. In addition, colleges could reach a broader range of students by helping
the students that currently struggle the most to pay tuition.

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Advisors: Michelle Connolly, Hugh Macartney and Kent Kimbrough | JEL Codes: I2, I22, I23

Measuring the Long-term Effects of Orphanhood

By Nicholas Thomas Gardner

This paper works towards developing the narrative of orphans whose parent or parents died from natural disaster. By taking advantage of the unanticipated nature of death from the 2004
Indonesian tsunami, orphanhood can be treated as much closer to random than similar literature using data centered on HIV/AIDS related deaths. We use a community level fixed effects model to attempt to derive a causal relationship between orphanhood and both education and log wages. Our models suggest that orphaned males aged 14 and older at baseline complete 1-2 fewer years of education than their cohorts. The adverse effects persist in the long-term, as these orphans earn 26% less than non-orphan cohorts.

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Advisors: Duncan Thomas and Kent Kimbrough | JEL Codes: I24, I25, I31, J24, J31

Protecting Long Term Human Capital in a Financial Crisis: Evidence from the Indonesian Family Life Survey

By Sachet Bangia

The East Asian Financial crisis of the late nineties made its way to Indonesia in January 1998. Using longitudinal data from the Indonesian Family Life Survey (1993-2015), this paper studies the impact of the crisis on education attainment. In the midst of economic upheaval, households with liquid assets at hand, particularly gold, were better able to maintain per capita expenditures. Tracing out the impact of gold ownership on completed education, I find that the effect is most apparent on 7 to 12 year olds in Indonesia. Using within-household variation in completed education, I find that a divergence in the use of gold to protect child education: urban households direct it towards older children, while rural households do the opposite. This result is best understood by considering the effect of the crisis on opportunity costs of schooling. In urban areas, wages declined sharply, while in rural areas, the return to food production increased dramatically. Thus older children in rural areas would be more likely to exit schooling during the crisis, and consequently not benefit from gold ownership in the household. The evidence examined indicates that families sought to protect their children’s long-term human capital, but in households with fewer resources, the children suffered permanent consequences.

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Advisor: Duncan Thomas | JEL Codes: D1, I2, O0

Perceptions vs. Reality: School Climate in Miami-Dade County

By Makda Habtom and Yuliya Kozina

This study looks at a sample of Miami-Dade public middle and high schools. The aim is to see if school incidents and perceived safety can be predicted by school-level diversity and other school characteristics. At first, it is found that higher diversity is associated with higher incidents and lower perceived safety. Then, looking at differences over time, it is found that diversity is no longer statistically significant. Instead, increases in school population and free/reduced price lunch over time is significantly associated with an increase in incidents. However, only an increase in the school population is associated with a decrease in perceived safety scores.

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Advisor: Hugh Macartney | JEL Codes: I2, I20

The Effect of Federal Regulations on the Outcomes of Auctions for Oil and Gas Leaseholds

By Artur Shikhaleev

This thesis attempts to analyze the impact of the differences in regulatory frameworks that govern state-owned and federally-owned lands on the outcomes of auctions for oil and natural gas leaseholds in the state of New Mexico. The analysis tries to isolate the effect of ownership by controlling for auction structure, leasehold characteristics, and prices of underlying resources. Given past research, the hypothesis is that stricter regulations carry a heavier cost to buyers, so the expectation is that federally-owned leaseholds, which are more regulated, are traded at a discount to state-owned leaseholds. However, the result of this thesis is contradictory to the hypothesis. The conclusion is that stricter regulations do not lead to a discounted auction price for an oil and gas leasehold.

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Advisor: James Roberts, Kent Kimbrough | JEL Codes: C12, C21, Q35, Q58 | Tagged: Auction, Education, environment, federal, natural gas, Oil, Regulation, State

Determinants of SAT Scores in North Carolina

By Abby Snyder

This paper examines the effects of different school and district characteristics on SAT scores across North Carolina from 2007 to 2014. Such characteristics include demographics, poverty and wealth indicators, measures of classroom environment, and achievement levels. A pooled time series panel across districts and schools with fixed effects is used to determine the strength of influence these variables have on scores. Ultimately, this paper identifies which characteristics lead to over or underperformance relative to predicted values; further, it considers the implications of the SAT being more of an “achievement” test versus an “aptitude” test.

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Advisor: Charles Becker | JEL Codes: I2, I24 | Tagged: Achievement Gap, Aptitude Test, Education, SAT

Early Identification of Students at Risk for High School Dropout

By Derek Lindsey

For years, many have hoped to identify why high school students drop out. Typically, studies focus on factors identified in high school or middle school. By tracking a cohort of North Carolina students from third grade onward, we attempt to identify areas for intervention even earlier in order to prevent dropouts. Indeed, we find that variables that can be viewed as indicators of high risk for drop out in middle school are already measurably present as early as third grade. This suggests interventions can begin when students are still very young and when treatment is likely to be more effective.

Honors Thesis

Advisor: Thomas Nechyba | JEL Codes: I2, I20 | Tagged: Dropout, Education, Elementary School, Graduation, High School, Middle School

Foreign Aid Allocation and Impact: A Sub-National Analysis of Malawi

By Rajlakshmi De

Understanding the role of foreign aid in poverty alleviation is one of the central inquiries for development economics. To augment past cross-country studies and randomized evaluations, this project data from Malawi is used in combination with multiple rounds of living standards data to predict the allocation and impact of health aid, water aid, and education aid.  Both instrumentation and propensity score matching methods are used.

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Advisor: Kent Kimbrough, Lori Leachman | JEL Codes: F35, I15, I25, I32, O12 | Tagged: Development, Education, Foreign Aid, Health, Malawi, Water

An Assessment of Teach for America Effectiveness and Spillover Effects in North Carolina

By Thomas Burr

Teach for America, while a relatively small cog in the grand scheme of education reform in America, has become something of a flashpoint for debate between the educational establishment and a new generation of reformers. In the first part of this research, I add to a growing number of studies on the effectiveness of TFA teachers by preforming regression analysis of student outcomes in grades 3-5 in North Carolina from 1995-2009 and find that, as measured by end of grade (EOG) math and reading test scores, first-year TFA teachers produce gains that are statistically indistinguishable from experienced teachers and approximately .09 standard deviations higher than other first-year teachers in math and .05 standard deviations higher in reading. In the second part of this research, I build off of Jackson and Bruegmann (2009), who for the first time showed evidence of peer effects between teachers, meaning that the outcomes of your own students can be affected by the quality of the other teachers in your grade. After confirming the results of Jackson/Bruegmann with three additional years of data, I add TFA status as an additional observable characteristic into the equation and find a statistically significant and positive effect to having a peer TFA teacher in your grade across several models.

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Advisor: Thomas Nechyba | JEL Codes: I2, J24 | Tagged: Education, Peer Effects, Spillover, Teach for America

The Nurture Effect: Like Father, Like Son. What about for an Adopted Child? A Study of Korean-American Adoptees on the Impact of Family Environment and Genes

By Suanna Seung-yun Oh

I investigate the influences of family environment and genes on children’s educational outcomes by working with data on Korean American adoptees and their non-adoptive siblings. I make use of the natural experiment setting where children were quasi-randomly assigned to families. From Sacerdote’s discussion of the three different approaches of analyzing the data, I derive a single-equation model that encompasses the three approaches as a few of its specific cases. The first part of my analysis identifies the causal effect of being assigned to a certain family environment. The second part of my analysis looks into causes of the differences between the educational attainment of adoptees and biological children, adding to the economists’ discussion on the relative importance of nature and nurture.

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Advisor: Marjorie McElroy | JEL Codes: J, J12,J13, J24 |  Tagged: Adoption, Child Development, Education, Environmental Influence


Undergraduate Program Assistant
Jennifer Becker

Director of the Honors Program
Michelle P. Connolly