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.
Direct and Spillover Effects of Limiting Minority Student Access to Special Education [Job Market Paper] (with Briana Ballis)
Abstract: Black students are about one and a half times more likely to be receiving special education (SpEd) services relative to white students. While there is significant concern that this implies some black students are inappropriately placed in SpEd, the long-run impacts of the disproportionate representation of minority students in SpEd remains unclear. This paper uses administrative data from Texas to examine the long-run effects of policies aimed at reducing SpEd classification gaps across racial groups (i.e. disproportionality remediation). Our research design exploits variation in SpEd placement for minority students driven by a state policy that capped district-level black and Hispanic disproportionality. We find that capping black disproportionality led to small gains in high school completion and college attainment for black students in special and general education. Overall, our results suggest that reductions in SpEd misclassification among black students may serve to reduce gaps in later-life success across race.
The Long-Run Impacts of Special Education (with Briana Ballis)
Conditionally Accepted 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.
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
Abstract: It is difficult to design an accountability program that appropriately captures special education students’ progress. Requiring certain levels of performance on a standardized exam may not be appropriate for students with disabilities who do not learn at grade-level or need accommodations for the standardized version. However, not including special education students in accountability means that their performance is not monitored and can lead to unintended consequences. In this study I pose two questions. First, how does special education classification affect long-run outcomes for low-performing students? Second, how does incorporation into accountability programs affect long-run outcomes for students with disabilities? The results of these analyses will provide the first causal estimates of the long-run effects of special education placement resulting from accountability pressure and the long-run effects of incorporating special education students into accountability programs on post-secondary attainment and earnings in the labor-market.