Education & Poverty

IRP Education Reform Conference and Edited Volume

Brookings Institution Press published the book Standards-Based Reform and the Poverty Gap: Lessons for "No Child Left Behind" edited by Adam Gamoran in October 2007, which presents papers from the February 2006 IRP cosponsored conference “Will Standards-Based Reform in Education Help Close the Poverty Gap?”

In Standards-Based Reform and the Poverty Gap a multidisciplinary group of top scholars in disciplines such as education policy, sociology, and economics examine the controversial No Child Left Behind Act, its emerging effects, and implications for future education reform efforts.

Gamoran is an IRP affiliate, UW-Madison professor of sociology and educational policy studies, and director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

Contributors: Megan Andrew, Thomas Dee, Laura Desimone, Rachel Durham, George Farkas, Jennifer Flashman, Barbara Foorman, Carl B. Frederick, David Frisvold, Robert M. Hauser, Paul T. Hill, Brian Jacob, Sharon J. Kalinowski, Tom Loveless, Meredith Phillips, Andrew C. Porter, Waynel L. Sexton, Thomas M. Smith.

Chicago Longitudinal Study

IRP affiliate Arthur Reynolds, Associate Professor of Social Work, Educational Psychology, and Child and Family Studies at UW Madison, is director of the Chicago Longitudinal Study [], a federally funded investigation of the effects of an early and extensive childhood intervention in central-city Chicago called the Child-Parent Center (CPC) Program. The study, begun in 1986, investigates the effects of government-funded kindergarten programs for children in the Chicago Public Schools. Besides investigating the short- and long-term effects of early childhood intervention, the study traces the scholastic and social development of participating children and the contributions of family and school practices to children's behavior. See also A. Reynolds, "The Child-Parent Center Program and Study" RPT 823 (A. Reynolds, Success in Early Intervention: The Chicago Child-Parent Centers [Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000], pp. 22-63).

Early Childhood Interventions and High-Stakes Testing

Low levels of investment by family and society in the education and development of disadvantaged children translate into poorer outcomes when those children grow up-reduced employment and lower wages, higher rates of early and nonmarital childbearing, and lower incomes, with all the concomitant risks to family health and well-being. Hence education, from preschool through high school, has been a major topic of research at IRP (see Focus Vol. 19:1, Summer/Fall 1997 for special issue on early childhood interventions/education). An October 2000 IRP symposium focused on testing policies that may affect all students in primary and secondary schools, but especially poor and minority students (the so-called "high-stakes testing").


IRP Discussion Papers, Reprints, and Special Reports

Does Head Start Improve Children's Life Chances? Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design
Jens Ludwig and Douglas L. Miller

In 1965 the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) provided technical assistance to the 300 poorest counties in the U.S. to develop Head Start funding proposals. The result was a large and lasting discontinuity in Head Start funding rates at the OEO cutoff for grant-writing assistance, but no discontinuity in other forms of federal social spending. We find evidence of a corresponding large negative discontinuity in mortality rates for children ages 5-9. We also find suggestive evidence for a positive effect of Head Start on educational attainment in both the 1990 Census, and the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988. (DP 1311-05)

The Impact of Family Income on Child Achievement
Gordon Dahl and Lance Lochner

Understanding the consequences of growing up poor for a child's well-being is difficult to determine because of the potential endogeneity of family income. In this paper, we use a fixed effect instrumental variables strategy to estimate the causal effect of income on children's math and reading achievement, using as our primary source of identification the large, non-linear changes in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) over the last two decades. Our baseline estimates imply that a $1,000 increase in income raises math test scores by 2.1 percent and reading test scores by 3.6 percent of a standard deviation.(DP 1305-05)

The Effects of Teach For America on Students: Findings from a National Evaluation
Paul T. Decker, Daniel P. Mayer, and Steven Glazerman

On the basis of student outcomes, this paper shows that Teach For America (TFA) teachers had a positive and significant impact on the math achievement of their students, though not on reading achievement. The success of TFA teachers is not dependent on teachers having extensive exposure to teacher practice or training. This study provides important information to policymakers who are trying to improve the educational opportunities of children in poor communities. (DP 1285-04)

New Evidence about Brown v. Board of Education: The Complex Effects of School Racial Composition on Achievement
Eric A. Hanushek, John F. Kain, and Steven G. Rivkin

Although the goals of the integration of schools legally mandated by Brown v. Board of Education are very broad, here we focus more narrowly on how school racial composition affects scholastic achievement. Our evaluation, made possible by rich panel data on the achievement of Texas students, disentangles racial composition effects from other aspects of school quality and from differences in abilities and family background. (DP 1284-04)

The Effect of Increases in Welfare Mothers' Education on Their Young Children's Academic and Behavioral Outcomes: Evidence from the National Evaluation of Welfare-to-Work Strategies Child Outcomes Study
Katherine Magnuson

Does an increase in a welfare mother's education improve her young child's academic performance or behavior? Surprisingly little is known about the causal nature of this relationship. This study uses experimentally induced differences in mothers' education to estimate instrumental variable (IV) models. Data come from the National Evaluation of Welfare-to-Work Strategies Child Outcomes Study. Findings suggest that increases in maternal education are positively associated with children's academic school readiness, and negatively associated with mothers' reports of their children's academic problems, but with little to no effect on children's behavior. (DP1274-03)

Universal Preschool: Much to Gain but Who Will Pay?
Scott Scrivner and Barbara Wolfe

This paper explores ways to finance a preschool program that would be universally available to all 4-year-olds in the country and that would be of at least moderate quality (and in many places of high quality). We review existing programs and a variety of proposals for expanding preschool for 4-year-olds in this country, before turning to our own proposed expansion. We base our proposal on ability-to-pay as reflected in the existing tax system, and focus on parents as the main financial contributors, with additional funds transferred from existing state and federal programs that subsidize child care for this age group. (DP 1271-03)

School-Based Early Intervention and Later Child Maltreatment in the Chicago Longitudinal Study
Arthur J. Reynolds and Dylan L. Robertson

RPT 836 (Child Development 74, no. 1 (January/February 2003), pp. 3-26).

Findings of this analysis of the effects of a federally financed, comprehensive early childhood show significantly lower rates of involvement with child welfare agencies among participants in the intervention, compared to children who participated in other kindergarten interventions. Parental involvement in school and school mobility were significant mediators of intervention effects.

Age 21 Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Title 1 Chicago Child-Parent Centers
A. Reynolds, J. Temple, D. Robertson, and E. Mann

Findings of this cost-benefit analysis of a federally financed, comprehensive early childhood program show that the measured and projected economic benefits of preschool, school-age, and extended participation exceeded program costs. Benefits included increased economic well-being and tax revenues, and reduced public expenditures for remedial education, criminal justice treatment, and crime victims. (DP 1245-02)

How Close Is Close Enough? Testing Nonexperimental Estimates of Impact against Experimental Estimates of Impact with Education Test Scores as Outcomes
E. Wilde and R. Hollister

In this study the authors test the performance of some nonexperimental estimators of impacts applied to an educational intervention-reduction in class size-where achievement test scores were the outcome, using data from Project Star in Tennessee. The nonexperimental estimates of the impacts are compared to "true impact" estimates provided by a random-assignment design used to assess the effects of that intervention. The primary focus in this study is on a nonexperimental estimator based on a complex procedure called propensity score matching. (DP 1242-02)

Do Children from Welfare Families Obtain Less Education?
I. Ku and R. Plotnick

This study confirms previous findings that greater parental welfare receipt is significantly associated with children's poorer educational attainment but suggests that parental welfare receipt is not negatively related to educational attainment if combined with at least quarter-time work by the mother. (DP 1217-00)

High School Inputs and Labor Market Outcomes for Male Workers in Their Mid-Thirties: New Data and New Estimates from Wisconsin
C. Olson and D. Ackerman

This study, using data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, shows a significant relationship between the characteristics of teachers and the earnings of their male students 17 years after graduation. (DP 1205-00)

Accounting for the Social and Non-Market Benefits of Education
B. Wolfe and R. Haveman

RPT 831 (The Contribution of Human and Social Capital to Sustained Economic Growth and Well-Being: International Symposium Report, ed. John F. Helliwell [published by OECD and HRDC, Canada], pp. 221-250).

The contribution of human and social capital, especially schooling, to economic growth and well-being has typically focussed on market outcomes, particularly labor market returns. In this paper, we focus on the social and non-market effects of education. We argue that these effects are large, perhaps as large as the marketed effects of education, and hence must be considered to correctly evaluate the optimum level of social (and public-sector) investment in schooling.

Does Family Structure Really Influence Educational Attainment
G. Sandefur and T. Wells

RPT 801 (Social Science Research, Vol. 28 [1999], pp. 331-357).

This paper examines the effects of family structure on educational attainment after controlling for common family influences, observed and unobserved, using data from siblings in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1979-1992.