Does High School Size Affect Rates of Risky Health Behaviors and Poor Mental Health Among Low-Income Teenagers? Evidence from New York City

56 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2019 Last revised: 16 Sep 2022

See all articles by Kai Hong

Kai Hong

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD); New York University (NYU) - Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service

Syeda Sana Fatima

New York University (NYU) - New York University; New York University, Wagner

Sherry Glied

New York University (NYU) - Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Leanna Stiefel

New York University (NYU) - Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service

Amy Ellen Schwartz

New York University (NYU) - Institute for Education and Social Policy; Syracuse University - Center for Policy Research; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: September 15, 2022

Abstract

There is increasing concern about risky behaviors and poor mental health among school-aged youth. A critical factor in youth well-being is school attendance. This study evaluates how school organization and structure affect health outcomes by examining the impacts of a popular urban high school reform -- “small schools” -- on youth risky behaviors and mental health, using data from New York City. To estimate a causal estimate of attending small versus large high schools, we use a two-sample-instrumental-variable approach with the distance between student residence and school as the instrument for school enrollment. We consider two types of small schools – “old small schools,” which opened prior to a system-wide 2003 reform aimed at increasing educational achievement and “new small schools,” which opened in the wake of that reform. We find that girls enrolled in older small schools are less likely to become pregnant, and boys are less likely to be diagnosed with mental health disorders than their counterparts in large schools. Both girls and boys enrolled in more recently opened small schools, however, are more likely to be diagnosed with violence-associated injuries and (for girls only) with mental health disorders. These disparate results suggest that improving a school’s organization and inputs together is likely more effective in addressing youth risky behaviors than simply reducing school size.

Keywords: small high school, instrumental variable, youth pregnancy, youth violence, mental health

JEL Classification: H41, I12, I21, J13

Suggested Citation

Hong, Kai and Fatima, Syeda Sana and Fatima, Syeda Sana and Glied, Sherry A. and Stiefel, Leanna and Schwartz, Amy Ellen and Schwartz, Amy Ellen, Does High School Size Affect Rates of Risky Health Behaviors and Poor Mental Health Among Low-Income Teenagers? Evidence from New York City (September 15, 2022). NYU Wagner Research Paper Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3437984 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3437984

Kai Hong (Contact Author)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) ( email )

1600 Clifton Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30333
United States

New York University (NYU) - Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service ( email )

The Puck Building
295 Lafayette Street, Second Floor
New York, NY 10012
United States

Syeda Sana Fatima

New York University (NYU) - New York University ( email )

Bobst Library, E-resource Acquisitions
20 Cooper Square 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10003-711
United States

New York University, Wagner ( email )

New York, NY
United States

Sherry A. Glied

New York University (NYU) - Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service ( email )

The Puck Building
295 Lafayette Street, Second Floor
New York, NY 10012
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Leanna Stiefel

New York University (NYU) - Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service ( email )

Public and Nonprofit Management and the Policy Pro
4 Washington Square North
New York, NY 10003
United States

Amy Ellen Schwartz

Syracuse University - Center for Policy Research ( email )

Syracuse, NY 13244
United States

New York University (NYU) - Institute for Education and Social Policy ( email )

United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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