This paper assesses whether additional schooling has lasting causal effects on cognitive function and explores the role of occupation type in shaping these effects. Exploiting quasi-experimental variation from the 1972 raising of the school leaving age in England and Wales, I find that an additional year of schooling improves working memory by one- to two-thirds of a standard deviation. However, I find limited evidence for causal effects on verbal fluency and numeric ability. Staying on at school also reduces the probability of entering a manual or routine occupation. Results from a causal mediation analysis show that, in line with other studies, the occupation channel can explain up to about one-fifth of schooling’s effects on memory. These figures are very imprecisely estimated. While remaining agnostic about the role of occupation, I conclude that basic education causally improves an important component of cognitive function in older ages.
The long run effects of attending a preferred secondary school: Evidence from an English cohort (with Ian Walker and Mat Weldon)
How to allocate school places to children is a question with potentially important consequences. Schools vary in quality, and in England, high-performing schools tend to be oversubscribed: there are more applicants than places available. In this paper, we study the long-term consequences of failing to gain admission to one's preferred secondary school in England. We examine a range of outcomes, including high-stakes examination scores, mental health, university and labour market outcomes. We also investigate a number of channels, including the role of match effects, peers and risky behaviours.
The causal effects of adolescent school bullying victimisation on later life outcomes (with Colm Harmon, Silvia Mendolia, Anita Staneva and Ian Walker)
Working paper version March 2019: https://hceconomics.uchicago.edu/research/working-paper/causal-effects-adolescent-school-bullying-victimisation-later-life-outcomes
We use a cohort of recent English adolescents to analyse the long-term effects of having been bullied in junior high school. The data contain self-reports of five types of bullying, and their intensity, for three waves of the data – up to the minimum school leaving age. We examine a variety of outcomes, including educational achievements, obtained from matching administrative data, and earnings at age 25. Employing a variety of estimation strategies, we show a pattern of results which strongly suggests there are important long run effects on victims – stronger than correlation analysis would otherwise suggest.
Do parents respond to their child missing out on a place at a preferred school?
This study documents parental responses to a perceived shock to public investments in their child’s schooling: missing out on a place at their first-choice primary school. In England and Wales, not all families are allocated a place at their first-choice school because popular schools are oversubscribed. This paper uses inverse-probability-weighted-regression to compare families with similar preferences over schools, admission probability, and socio-economic characteristics—yet one gains a place at their preferred school, and one misses out. When the pupils are aged 7 years, the analyses fail to detect evidence for differential parental investments either through helping with homework or private tuition. At age 11 years, when families are preparing for secondary school, parents of children who missed out on a place spend less time helping with homework (although this is not statistically significant). However, private tuition and music lessons are significantly increased.