Using Sven Goran Erikson to Identify the Education Production Function: Student Effort, Educational Attainment and the World CupISER External Seminars

Recent studies have analysed many components of the education production function. These include estimation of the impact of class size, teacher quality, other school resources, peer groups, cognitive skills, family income, parental human capital and so on. However, one factor that has received comparatively little attention is perhaps the one that the student focuses on most ? her effort in studying is one of the few aspects of educational attainment actually under her own control. Does it matter, does studying hard pay off? Data and identification problems are undoubtedly a major constraint: causal analysis of the impact of student effort on educational attainment, requires an exogenous change in the marginal value of leisure. This paper attempts to quantify how much does student effort matters to educational attainment.

We use a sharp, exogenous and repeated change in the value of leisure to identify the impact of student effort on educational performance. Performance is measured using the universal high-stakes tests that students in schools in England take at the end of compulsory schooling. The treatment arises from the fact that the world’s major international football tournaments overlap with the exam period in schools in England, well known to be a nation obsessed with football. These tournaments are both attention-grabbing and highly salient for many students. They happen every other summer, so each year is sequentially either a treatment year or a control year. Because of the nature of the treatment and our data, we can implement a clean difference-in-difference design. We compare within-student variation in performance during the exam period between tournament and non-tournament years using seven years of student*subject data on practically all the students in England. This data allows us to bring out the heterogeneity of impact as well as quantifying the average effect.

Presented by:

Simon Burgess (University of Bristol)

Date & time:

23 May 2011 10:53 am


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