Working Papers

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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Accepted at the Journal of Labor Economics

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

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(with Joshua Goodman, Michael Hurwitz, and Jonathan Smith)

Abstract: We study within-family spillovers in college enrollment to show college-going behavior is transmissible between peers. Because siblings’ test scores are weakly correlated, we exploit college-specific admissions thresholds that directly affect older but not younger siblings’ college options. Older siblings’ admissibility substantially increases their own four-year college enrollment rate and quality of college attended. Their improved college choices in turn raise younger siblings’ college enrollment rate and quality of college chosen, particularly for families with low predicted probabilities of college enrollment. Some younger siblings follow their older sibling to the same campus but many upgrade by choosing other colleges. 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 income, geography and other characteristics that define a community.


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 .