Distance to Schools and Equal Access in School Choice Systems - under review [paper]
This paper studies the limits of school choice policies in the presence of residential sorting. Using data from the Boston Public Schools choice system, I show that white prekindergarteners are assigned to schools that are higher quality, as measured by a race-balanced school rating, than Black and Hispanic students, and cross-race school-rating gaps under choice are no lower than would be generated by a neighborhood assignment rule. To understand the latter finding, I use data on applicants' rank-order choices to estimate preferences over schools and consider a series of counterfactual assignments. I find that half of the cross-race gap in school ratings is explained by minorities' longer travel distance to high-rated schools, while algorithm rules that factor in the residential location of families do not contribute to the gap.
Although the literature on assignment mechanisms emphasizes the importance of efficiency based on agents' preferences, policymakers may want to achieve different goals. For instance, school districts may want to affect student learning outcomes but must take teacher welfare into account when assigning teachers to students in classrooms and schools. This paper studies both the potential efficiency and equity test-score gains from within-district reassignment of teachers to classrooms using novel data that allows us to observe decisions of both teachers and principals in the teacher internal-transfer process, and test-scores of students from the observed assignments. We jointly model student achievement and teacher and school principal decisions to account for potential selection on test-score gains and to predict teacher effectiveness in unobserved matches. Teachers, but not principals, are averse to assignment based on the teachers' comparative advantage. Estimates from counterfactual assignments of teachers to classrooms imply that, under a constraint not to reduce any retained teacher's welfare, average student test scores could rise by 7% of a standard deviation. Although both high and low achievers would experience average gains under this counterfactual, gains would be larger for high-achieving students.
Selected Work in Progress
Targeting and Efficiency in the Allocation of Childcare Subsidies, with Esperanza Johnson