"Free Lunch for All! The Effect of the Community Eligibility Provision on Academic Outcomes" with John Gordanier, Orgul Ozturk, & Crystal Zhan , Economics of Education Review 77 (2020): 101999.
Abstract. In this paper, we analyze the effect of Community Eligibility Provision, a universal free-lunch program, on middle and elementary school students’ academic performance and attendance in the state of South Carolina. As part of the program, eligible schools can provide free lunch to all students, regardless of whether an individual student qualifies for free or reduced lunch. Using a difference in differences setup, we show that this program leads to about 0.06 of a standard deviation increase in Math test scores for elementary school students. We find smaller, but statistically insignificant effects on reading scores. We find no significant effect on middle school students’ test scores. The effects are most substantial for students that were previously eligible for free lunches, but not on other public assistance programs. We also find a larger effect on Math scores in rural areas than in urban areas.
"The Spillover Benefits of Expanding Access to Preschool", Economics of Education Review 70 (2019): 127-143.
Abstract. I ask do spillover benefits exist from preschool. I exploit district and time variation in access to a state preschool program (CDEP) that targets disadvantaged four-year-olds (those eligible for free or reduced-price lunch or Medicaid). Using a difference-in-differences design, I estimate the effects by CDEP-eligibility status of CDEP exposure (residing in a CDEP district after launch at age four) on test scores. I find that CDEP benefits its targeted population and increases the math and reading scores of exposed, CDEP-ineligible students by about 0.13 and 0.14 standard deviations, respectively. These spillover effects may stem, in whole or in part, from improvements to classroom decorum via fewer behavioral disruptions.
"Pride and Prejudice: Same-Sex Marriage Legalization Announcements and LGBT Hate Crimes" with Zehra Valencia & Robert Pettis - (Revise & resubmit, Journal of Law and Economics)
Abstract. We examine whether same-sex marriage legalization announcements impact the occurrence of LGBT hate-crimes. We exploit variation in the timing of same-sex marriage legalization announcements across states, using a difference-in-differences design. We find that a same-sex marriage legalization announcement leads to a reduction in the LGBT hate-crime rate of 0.111 per 100,000 people from a base of 0.3. This result is mostly driven by reductions in violent hate-crimes. There is also evidence of a reduction in property hate-crimes. Additional analyses indicate that the effect is stronger in counties with a large share of likely perpetrators. Our results show suggestive evidence that same-sex marriage bans have the opposite effect on the LGBT hate-crime rate. The results demonstrate that salient LGBT-specific policy announcements are effective at reducing hate-crimes based on sexual orientation.
"Who Does Aid Help? Examining Heterogeneity in the Effect of Grant Aid on Achievement" - (Revise & resubmit, Education Finance and Policy)
Abstract. Does grant aid impact achievement differently for low- and high-income students? I exploit the eligibility requirements of a state scholarship program that awards additional funds to merit aid recipients majoring in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) fields. A triple difference design, using administrative data from the University of South Carolina and exploiting differences over time by merit aid recipient status and by major type (STEM or non-STEM), shows that grant aid increases the GPAs and graduation prospects of low-income students by 0.169 GPA points and 10.7 percentage points, respectively, but has little impact on high-income students. Additional analysis suggests that the reduction in work-study among low-income students may be a potential mechanism for the heterogeneous achievement effects of grant aid by income. These results suggest that merit aid programs could be targeted more effectively than most currently are.