What is a Good School, and Can Parents Tell? Evidence on the Multidimensionality of School Output

Produced by: 
American University
AQR Research Group
Asociación Nacional de Centros de Posgrado en Economía, Brasil
Available from: 
November 2020
Paper author(s): 
C. Kirabo Jackson
Diether W. Beuermann
Laia Navarro-Sola
Francisco Pardo
Topic: 
Education - Health
Year: 
2020

To explore whether schools’ causal impacts on test-scores measure their overall impact on students, we exploit quasi-random school assignments and data from Trinidad and Tobago to estimate the causal impacts of individual schools on several outcomes. Schools’ impacts on high-stakes tests are moderately related to impacts on crime but weakly related to impacts on important outcomes such as dropout, teen motherhood, and formal labor-market participation. To examine if parents value these causal impacts, we link them to parents’ ranked lists of schools and employ discrete-choice models to infer preferences for school attributes. Many parents choose schools that improve high-stakes tests, that reduce criminality, and increase labor-market participation. Notably, many parents’ choices indicate stronger preferences for impacts on non-academic outcomes than test-score impacts. These results reveal that evaluations based solely on test scores may be very misleading about the benefits of school choice, and education interventions more broadly.

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