Heat and Learning

53 Pages Posted: 25 May 2018

See all articles by Joshua Goodman

Joshua Goodman

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Michael Hurwitz

College Board

Jisung Park

Harvard University - Department of Economics

Jonathan Smith

Georgia State University

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 26, 2018


We provide the first evidence that cumulative heat exposure inhibits cognitive skill development and that school air conditioning can mitigate this effect. Student fixed effects models using 10 million PSAT-takers show that hotter school days in the year prior to the test reduce learning, with extreme heat being particularly damaging and larger effects for low income and minority students. Weekend and summer heat has little impact and the effect is not explained by pollution or local economic shocks, suggesting heat directly reduces the productivity of learning inputs. New data providing the first measures of school level air conditioning penetration across the US suggest such infrastructure almost entirely offsets these effects. Without air conditioning, each 1°F increase in school year temperature reduces the amount learned that year by one percent. Our estimates imply that the benefits of school air conditioning likely outweigh the costs in most of the US, particularly given future predicted climate change.

Suggested Citation

Goodman, Joshua and Hurwitz, Michael and Park, Jisung and Smith, Jonathan, Heat and Learning (April 26, 2018). HKS Working Paper No. RWP18-014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3180724 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3180724

Joshua Goodman (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/about/faculty-staff-directory/joshua-goodman/

Michael Hurwitz

College Board ( email )

1919 M Street NW
Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Jisung Park

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Jonathan Smith

Georgia State University ( email )

United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/jonathansmithphd/

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