Working Papers

Revise and Resubmit at the American Economic Review

Abstract: Counselors are a common school resource for students navigating complicated and consequential education choices. I estimate counselors' causal effects using quasi-random assignment policies in Massachusetts. Counselors vary substantially in their effectiveness at increasing high school graduation and college attendance, selectivity, and persistence. Counselor effects on educational attainment are similar in magnitude to teacher effects, but they flow through improved information and assistance, rather than through cognitive or non-cognitive skill development. Counselor effectiveness is most important for low-income and low-achieving students. Improving access to effective counseling may be a promising way to increase educational attainment and close socioeconomic gaps in education.

Media Coverage: Chalkbeat Inside Higher Ed EdNC KQED

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with Isaac Opper

There is an emerging consensus that teachers impact multiple student outcomes, but it remains unclear how to summarize these multiple dimensions of teacher effectiveness into simple metrics that can be used for research or personnel decisions. Here, we discuss the implications of estimating teacher effects in a multidimensional empirical Bayes framework and illustrate how to appropriately use these noisy estimates to assess the dimensionality and predictive power of the true teacher effects. Empirically, our principal components analysis indicates that the multiple dimensions can be efficiently summarized by a small number of measures; for example, one dimension explains over half the variation in the teacher effects on all the dimensions we observe. Summary measures based on the first principal component lead to similar rankings of teachers as summary measures weighting short-term effects by their prediction of long-term outcomes. We conclude by discussing the practical implications of using summary measures of effectiveness and, specifically, how to ensure that the policy implementation is fair when different sets of measures are observed for different teachers.


Quarterly Journal of Economics (2021) 136(3): 1831 - 1886

with Adam Altmejd, Andres Barrios-Fernandez, Marin Drlje, Joshua Goodman, Michael Hurwitz, Dejan Kovac, Christopher Neilson and Jonathan Smith

US Only Version: NBER Working paper 26502 (with Joshua Goodman, Michael Hurwitz, and Jonathan Smith)

Abstract: Family and social networks are widely believed to influence important life decisions but identifying their causal effects is notoriously difficult. Using admissions thresholds that directly affect older but not younger siblings’ college options, we present evidence from the United States, Chile, Sweden and Croatia that older siblings’ college and major choices can significantly influence their younger siblings’ college and major choices. On the extensive margin, an older sibling’s enrollment in a better college increases a younger sibling’s probability of enrolling in college at all, especially for families with low predicted probabilities of enrollment. On the intensive margin, an older sibling’s choice of college or major increases the probability that a younger sibling applies to and enrolls in that same college or major. Spillovers in major choice are stronger when older siblings enroll and succeed in more selective and higher-earning majors. The observed spillovers are not well-explained by price, income, proximity or legacy effects, but are most consistent with older siblings transmitting otherwise unavailable information about the college experience and its potential returns. The importance of such personally salient information may partly explain persistent differences in college-going rates by geography, income, and other determinants of social networks.

Journal of Labor Economics (2021), 39 (1): 219-262

Published Version

Abstract: Choosing where to apply to college is a complex problem with long-term consequences, but many students lack the guidance necessary to make optimal choices. I show that a technology which provides low-cost personalized college admissions information to over forty percent of high schoolers significantly alters college choices. Students shift applications and attendance to colleges for which they can observe information on schoolmates' admissions experiences. Responses are largest when such information suggests a high admissions probability. Disadvantaged students respond the most, and information on in-state colleges increases their four-year college attendance. Data features and framing, however, deter students from selective colleges.

Media Coverage: The Wall Street Journal Inside Higher Ed EdSurge Naviance

Brief Summary Web Appendix

Journal of Public Economics, 193 (2021) 104345, with Andrew Bacher-Hicks and Joshua Goodman

Published Version

Abstract: We use high frequency internet search data to study in real time how US households sought out online learning resources as schools closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. By April 2020, nationwide search intensity for both school- and parent-centered online learning resources had roughly doubled relative to baseline. Areas of the country with higher income, better internet access and fewer rural schools saw substantially larger increases in search intensity. The pandemic will likely widen achievement gaps along these dimensions given schools’ and parents’ differing engagement with online resources to compensate for lost school-based learning time. Accounting for such differences and promoting more equitable access to online learning could improve the effectiveness of education policy responses to the pandemic. The public availability of internet search data allows our analyses to be updated when schools reopen and to be replicated in other countries.

Media Coverage: Business Insider The Weeds (44:30)

EdNext Summary Article

Can Low-Cost Online Summer Math Programs Improve Student Preparation for College-Level Math? Evidence from Randomized Control Trials at Three Universities. (with Matthew M. Chingos, Rebecca J. Griffiths, and Richard R. Spies. ) Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 2017, Vol. 10, 4, Pp. 794-816.

Interactive Online Learning on Campus: Comparing Students' Outcomes in Hybrid and Traditional Courses in the University System of Maryland. (with Matthew M. Chingos, Rebecca J. Griffiths, and Richard R. Spies. ) Journal of Higher Education, 2016. Pp. 794-816 .