Research


I am an applied microeconomist, broadly interested in the economics of education, labor economics, and public finance. My current research is focused on the economics of education, with an emphasis on special education.


Working Papers

Direct and Spillover Effects of Limiting Minority Student Access to Special Education [Job Market Paper] (with Briana Ballis)

Abstract: We provide the first causal estimates of the long-run impacts of limiting minority student access to special education, as well as the first causal spillover effects of limiting access to special education on general education students. In 2004, Texas capped district-level black and Hispanic disproportionality, defined as the percent of black or Hispanic students in special education relative to the percent in a district overall. Texas also capped district-level special education enrollment. We employ a dose-response difference-in-differences estimation strategy with administrative data from Texas. We find that the black disproportionality cap led to small gains in high school completion and college attainment for black students in special and general education. In contrast, the cap on special education enrollment led to reductions in high school and college completion for black and Hispanic students in special and general education. We provide suggestive evidence that the heterogeneous treatment effects among black students could be driven by unobserved differences in special education misclassification.

The Long-Run Impacts of Special Education (with Briana Ballis)
R&R at American Economic Journal: Economic Policy

Abstract: Over 13 percent of US students participate in special education programs annually, at a cost of $40 billion. However, the effect of special education placements remains unclear. This paper uses administrative data from Texas to examine the long-run effect of reducing special education access. Our research design exploits variation in special education placement driven by a state policy that required school districts to reduce special education caseloads to 8.5 percent. We show that this policy led to sharp reductions in special education enrollment. These reductions in special education access generated significant reductions in educational attainment, suggesting that marginal participants experience long-run benefits from special education services.

Press Coverage: Houston Chronicle, The74

Works in Progress

How Do Special Education Funding Incentives Affect Student Performance?

Abstract: I estimate the effect of removing financial incentives for districts to classify students into special education on special education enrollment and funding. In 2008, New Jersey switched from a census formula, which provided districts with additional funding for each student receiving special education to a block grant system for funding special education programs. Under the block grant system, districts now receive a fixed amount of money based on the statewide average special education rate. I employ a dose-response difference-in-differences estimation strategy that exploits cross-district variation in treatment intensity to estimate the impact of this policy change on special education students. I find that switching from a census to a block grant funding system led to a reduction in special education revenue by about $41 per special education pupil. In addition, special education enrollment fell by about 2.2%.

The Long-Run Effects of School Accountability on Special Education Students