Research

Working Papers

Horizontal Differentiation and the Policy Effect of Charter Schools
(with Michael Gilraine and Uros Petronijevic)

While school choice may enhance competition, incentives for public schools to raise productivity may be muted if public education is viewed as imperfectly substitutable with alternatives. This paper estimates the aggregate effect of charter school expansion on education quality while accounting for the horizontal differentiation of charter school programs. To do so, we combine student-level administrative data with novel information about the educational programs of charter schools that opened in North Carolina following the removal of the statewide cap in 2011. The dataset contains students' standardized test scores as well as geocoded residential addresses, which allow us to compare the test score changes of students who lived near the new charters prior to the policy change with those for students who lived farther away. We apply this research design to estimate separate treatment effects for exposure to charter schools that are and are not differentiated horizontally from public school instruction. The results indicate learning gains for treated students that are driven entirely by non-horizontally differentiated charter schools: we find that non-horizontally differentiated charter school expansion causes a 0.05 SD increase in math scores. These learning gains are driven by public schools responding to increased competition.

Expertise and Independence on Governing Boards: Evidence from School Districts
(with Ying Shi)

In this paper, we study the roles of expertise and independence on governing boards in the context of education. In particular, we examine the causal influence of professional educators elected to local school boards on education production. Educators may bring valuable human capital to school district leadership, thereby improving student learning. Alternatively, the independence of educators may be distorted by interest groups. The key empirical challenge is that school board composition is endogenously determined through the electoral process. To overcome this, we develop and implement a novel research design that exploits California's randomized assignment of the order that candidates appear on election ballots. The insight of our empirical strategy is that ballot order effects generate quasi-random variation in the elected school board's composition. This approach is made possible by a unique dataset that combines election information about California school board candidates with district-level data on education inputs and outcomes. The results reveal that educators on the school board causally increase teacher salaries and reduce district enrollment in charter schools relative to other board members. We do not find accompanying effects on student test scores. We interpret these findings as consistent with educators on school boards shifting bargaining in favor of teachers' unions.

Work in Progress

Valuing School Choice: Using a Randomized Experiment to Validate Welfare Evaluation of Private School Vouchers
(with Peter Arcidiacono, Karthik Muralidharan, and Eun-young Shim)

The Welfare Implications of Targeted Television Advertising
(with Carl F. Mela and Andrew Sweeting)

District-wide School Choice and Residential Sorting
(with Marianna Kudlyak and Kegon Tan)

Publications

The Competitive Effects of Entry: Evidence from Supercenter Expansion
(with Peter Arcidiacono, Paul B. Ellickson, and Carl F. Mela) 
Forthcoming, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics

The Fiscal Externalities of Charter Schools: Evidence from North Carolina
(with Helen F. Ladd)
Forthcoming, Education Finance and Policy

Incentives and the Supply of Effective Charter Schools
Forthcoming, American Economic Review

School Boards and Student Segregation
(with Hugh Macartney)
Journal of Public Economics 164 (2018): 165-182.

The Empirical Economist’s Toolkit: From Models to Methods
(with Matthew T. Panhans)
History of Political Economy 49, annual suppl. (2017): 127-157.

Putting Dollars Before Scholars? Evidence from For-Profit Charter Schools in Florida
Economics of Education Review 58 (2017): 43-54

Sorting Charles Tiebout
History of Political Economy 47, annual suppl. (2015): 199-226.

"Money is a Sterile Thing": Martin Luther on the Immorality of Usury Reconsidered
History of Political Economy 43, no. 4 (2011): 683-698.

Chapters, Edited Volumes, and Other

Slaves or Mercenaries? Milton Friedman and the Institution of the All-Volunteer Military
in Milton Friedman: Contributions to Economics and Public Policy, eds. Robert Cord and J. Daniel Hammond.
Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2016: 499-522.

Chicago Price Theory, 3 vols.
(edited with J. Daniel Hammond and Steven G. Medema)
Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2013.

An Archival History of the Econometric Society
(with Matthew T. Panhans)