Topics on Economics of Education
This dissertation consists of two separate essays on economics of education. First, the role of teacher-student interactions is analyzed. Teacher effectiveness is generally characterized by a single effect that is common across students. However, educators are multi-task agents that choose how to allocate their efforts among pupils. Some teachers may target their courses towards the top students in the class while others to the bottom, leading to different complementarity effects. Moreover, the introduction of accountability programs, such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), could induce a reallocation of teacher's efforts, affecting the dynamics of student-teacher interactions. This study shows that the role of complementarities is key from a policy perspective. In this regard, an analytical framework and a novel iterative algorithm are implemented in order to characterize and quantify these effects. Results indicate that interaction effects played a crucial role in shaping the distribution of student achievement, especially after the implementation of NCLB. While more than half of the total gains in test scores experienced by the bottom third of the student achievement distribution post NCLB are due to adjustments in teacher-student complementarities, those with the very highest abilities have seen decreases in their performance.
In the second essay, gender disparities in educational attainment are explored across races. The sizable gender gap in college enrollment, especially among African Americans, constitutes a puzzling empirical regularity that may have serious consequences on marriage markets, male labor force participation and the diversity of college campuses. For instance, only 35.7 percent of all African American undergraduate students were men in 2004. Results show that, while family background characteristics cannot account for the observed gap, proxy measures for non-cognitive skills are crucial to explain it.
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