Teacher Expectations Matter

71 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2016

See all articles by Nicholas W. Papageorge

Nicholas W. Papageorge

Johns Hopkins University Department of Economics

Seth Gershenson

American University - School of Public Affairs

Kyungmin Kang

Johns Hopkins University

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We develop and estimate a joint model of the education and teacher-expectation production functions that identifies both the distribution of biases in teacher expectations and the impact of those biases on student outcomes via self-fulfilling prophecies. The identification strategy leverages insights from the measurement-error literature and a unique feature of a nationally representative dataset: two teachers provided their educational expectations for each student. We provide novel, arguably causal evidence that teacher expectations affect students' educational attainment. Estimates suggest that the elasticity of the likelihood of college completion with respect to teachers' expectations is about 0.12. On average, teachers are overly optimistic about students' ability to complete a four-year college degree.However, the degree of over-optimism of white teachers is significantly larger for white students than for black students. This highlights a nuance that is frequently overlooked in discussions of biased beliefs: unbiased (i.e., accurate) beliefs can be counterproductive if there are positive returns to optimism or if there are socio-demographic gaps in the degree of teachers' over-optimism, both of which we find evidence of. We use the estimated model to assess the effects of two policies on black students' college completion: hiring more black teachers and "de-biasing" white teachers so that they are similarly optimistic about black and white students.

Keywords: education, educational attainment, teachers, subjective expectations, human capital accumulation

JEL Classification: I2, D84, J15

Suggested Citation

Papageorge, Nicholas W. and Gershenson, Seth and Kang, Kyungmin, Teacher Expectations Matter. IZA Discussion Paper No. 10165, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2834215 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2834215

Nicholas W. Papageorge (Contact Author)

Johns Hopkins University Department of Economics ( email )

3400 Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218-2685
United States

Seth Gershenson

American University - School of Public Affairs ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

Kyungmin Kang

Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD 20036-1984
United States

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