The Gap within the Gap: Using Longitudinal Data to Understand Income Differences in Student Achievement

45 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2016

See all articles by Katherine Michelmore

Katherine Michelmore

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor; Syracuse University

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

Date Written: July 2016

Abstract

Gaps in educational achievement between high- and low-income children are growing. Administrative datasets maintained by states and districts lack information about income but do indicate whether a student is eligible for subsidized school meals. We leverage the longitudinal structure of these datasets to develop a new measure of persistent economic disadvantage. Half of 8th graders in Michigan are eligible for a subsidized meal, but just 14 percent have been eligible for subsidized meals in every grade since kindergarten. These children score 0.94 standard deviations below those never eligible for subsidies and 0.23 below those occasionally eligible. There is a negative, linear relationship between grades spent in economic disadvantage and 8th grade test scores. This is not an exposure effect: the relationship is almost identical in 3rd grade, before children have been differentially exposed to five more years of economic disadvantage. Survey data show that the number of years that a child will spend eligible for subsidized lunch is negatively correlated with her current household income. Years eligible for subsidized meals can therefore be used as a reasonable proxy for income. Our proposed measure can be used in evaluations to estimate heterogeneous effects, to improve value-added calculations, and to better target resources.

Suggested Citation

Michelmore, Katherine and Dynarski, Susan M., The Gap within the Gap: Using Longitudinal Data to Understand Income Differences in Student Achievement (July 2016). NBER Working Paper No. w22474. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2816748

Katherine Michelmore (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

500 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Syracuse University ( email )

900 S. Crouse Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2130
United States

Susan M. Dynarski

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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

735 South State Street, Weill Hall
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Education ( email )

610 East University Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1259
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
7
Abstract Views
137
PlumX Metrics