Experimental Evidence on the Effect of Childhood Investments on Postsecondary Attainment and Degree Completion

43 Pages Posted: 22 Oct 2011 Last revised: 24 Oct 2011

See all articles by Susan M. Dynarski

Susan M. Dynarski

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Education

Joshua Hyman

University of Connecticut - Department of Public Policy; University of Connecticut - Neag School of Education; University of Connecticut - Department of Economics

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

Northwestern University - School of Education and Social Policy; NBER

Date Written: October 2011

Abstract

This paper examines the effect of early childhood investments on college enrollment and degree completion. We use the random assignment in the Project STAR experiment to estimate the effect of smaller classes in primary school on college entry, college choice, and degree completion. We improve on existing work in this area with unusually detailed data on college enrollment spells and the previously unexplored outcome of college degree completion. We find that assignment to a small class increases the probability of attending college by 2.7 percentage points, with effects more than twice as large among blacks. Among students enrolled in the poorest third of schools, the effect is 7.3 percentage points. Smaller classes increase the likelihood of earning a college degree by 1.6 percentage points and shift students towards high-earning fields such as STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), business and economics. We find that test score effects at the time of the experiment are an excellent predictor of long-term improvements in postsecondary outcomes.

Suggested Citation

Dynarski, Susan M. and Hyman, Joshua and Schanzenbach, Diane Whitmore, Experimental Evidence on the Effect of Childhood Investments on Postsecondary Attainment and Degree Completion (October 2011). NBER Working Paper No. w17533. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1947188

Susan M. Dynarski (Contact Author)

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University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy ( email )

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Joshua Hyman

University of Connecticut - Department of Public Policy ( email )

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University of Connecticut - Neag School of Education ( email )

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University of Connecticut - Department of Economics ( email )

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Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

Northwestern University - School of Education and Social Policy ( email )

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NBER ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02138
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