Katrina’s Children: A Natural Experiment in Peer Effects from Hurricane Evacuees
'Katrina’s Children: A Natural Experiment in Peer Effects from Hurricane Evacuees,' (with Scott Imberman and Bruce Sacerdote), American Economic Review, August (2012).
Posted: 13 Sep 2019
Date Written: August 1, 2012
In 2005, hurricanes Katrina and Rita induced the largest internal migration ever in the U.S. As a byproduct, a large number of children had to evacuate the Gulf coast areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and relocate to schools across the southeast US. Many school districts strived to enroll the evacuees in their schools as quickly as possible. At the same time, families in the receiving districts worried about disruptions in the schools and decreased resources for non-evacuee students. Using data from Houston, TX and Louisiana we investigate the extent to which the arrival of Katrina and Rita evacuee peers adversely affected the academic performance and behavior of native students. On average, we find that increases in the share of evacuees moderately reduced elementary test scores for math in Houston and secondary reading test scores in Louisiana. Moreover, non-linear models show evidence of monotonicity in Houston and boutiquing in Louisiana. In Houston, the influx of low quality evacuees hurt all natives, while the entry of high quality evacuees helps all natives. By contrast, in Louisiana, the influx of low (high) quality evacuees has a bigger negative (positive) effect on natives as they get better. We also find that the influx of Katrina evacuees decreased attendance rates of native students, suggesting that peer effects are working through both cognitive as well as behavioral channels. Our results are robust to an instrumental variables strategy and a placebo experiment. We also see little evidence to suggest that these impacts are coming through changes in class size, per-student expenditures, teacher experience, or school switching amongst native students, suggesting that the impacts we see are indeed working through peer effects.
Keywords: hurricane, evacuees
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