Copyright by Emma Gorman. Last updated 13/04/2019

The short- and long-run consequences of missing out on a place at a preferred secondary school in England  (with Ian Walker)


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 use nationally representative cohort data linked to administrative education records to study the long-term consequences of failing to gain admission to one's preferred secondary school in England. Our empirical strategy leverages features of the institutional setting and the literature on school choice to make a  case for a selection-on-observables identifying assumption.
Failing to gain a place at a preferred school had little impact on performance in high-stakes examinations, staying on in school and university attendance, but was associated with lower income and reduced mental health in adulthood.  These effects are especially pronounced in areas which deployed a manipulable assignment mechanism for school places, where we also detected detrimental effect on high-stakes examination outcomes. A potential channel is increased early engagement in risky behaviours. Our results show that schools are important in shaping more than test scores, but also that the workings of the school admission system play a fundamental role in ensuring access to good schools.

Schooling, occupation and cognitive function: Evidence from compulsory schooling laws

Draft (October 2017):

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. 

Adolescent school bullying victimisation and later life outcomes (with Colm Harmon, Silvia Mendolia, Anita Staneva and Ian Walker) 

Working paper version March 2019:

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. 

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