Job Market Paper

Restructured or Fractured: The Impact of a One-Time Increase in Principal Autonomy on School Staffing Decisions and Student Outcomes.

There is a growing trend in education policy to give principals greater autonomy over staffing decisions. The current research adds to the literature by analyzing how principals and teachers react when principals are given complete control over teacher retention decisions after a district-level restructuring policy has laid off all untenured teachers. I examine three questions related to increases in principal autonomy: Was there a change in the probability of an untenured teacher returning to the same school the next year? If so, were higher-value-added teachers retained at a higher rate? Lastly, what effect did the restructuring of staffs have on student performance? A conceptual framework based on Bayesian updating employer learning predicts that in the year of the layoffs fewer teachers would be retained in their position with the more-senior, untenured teachers being the least likely to be retained. Using a triple-difference identification strategy on data collected from the Rockford Public School District and Illinois State Board of Education, I find that fewer untenured teachers were retained in the year of the restructuring with an inverse relationship between untenured teacher experience and retention rates. Additionally, there is suggestive evidence of an inverse relationship between value-added scores and retention rates. Finally, I find evidence that the policy had a negative impact on student test performance. A 10 percentage point increase in untenured teachers at a school in the year of the layoffs is associated with 0.02 – 0.04 standard deviations lower student test scores in math two years after the policy.


Capitalization of Charter Schools into Residential Property Values” (with Margaret Brehm and Scott Imberman). Forthcoming at Education Finance and Policy.

While prior research has found clear impacts of schools and school quality on property values, little is known about whether charter schools have similar effects. Using sale price data for residential properties in Los Angeles County from 2008 to 2011 we estimate the neighborhood level impact of charter schools on housing prices. Using an identification strategy that relies on census block fixed-effects and variation in charter penetration over time, we find little evidence that the availability of a charter school affects housing prices on average. However, we do find that when restricting to districts other than Los Angeles Unified and counting only charter schools located in the same school district as the household, housing prices fall in response to an increase in nearby charter penetration.

Impact of Antibiotic Choice on Pneumonia Readmission Rates.” (with Alice Hemenway). Forthcoming in American Journal of Therapeutics.

There are several known patient and institutional variables associated with a higher risk of rehospitalization within 30 days of an admission for community acquired pneumonia (CAP). However, less is known regarding the impact of antibiotics. A retrospective cohort study of 271 patients was performed to determine if, when controlling for known factors for readmission, choice of antibiotic affects 30-day rehospitalization after an index admission of pneumonia. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was performed to determine correlation between antibiotic choice and readmission rates. Empiric tobramycin was associated with a 31 .2% increased risk of readmission for any reason (p<0.01). Empiric and treatment aztreonam were associated with a 13.7% and 13.5% increased risk of readmission with recurrent pneumonia, respectively (both p<0.05). Further research evaluating these associations is warranted.

The Internet as an Indicator of Corruption Awareness,” (with Rajeev Goel and Michael A. Nelson) European Journal of Political Economy, Volume 28, Issue 1, 2012.

We apply a standard specification of the causes of corruption to a large sample of countries to investigate the effect of internet awareness about corruption on prevalence and perceptions of corruption. The main hypothesis is that greater corruption awareness acts as a corruption deterrent. A unique data set of internet searches on Google and Yahoo is compiled using alternate variations of “corruption”, “bribery” and “country name” keywords to capture internet corruption awareness. Results show that internet hits about corruption per capita correlate negatively with corruption perceptions and corruption incidence. This finding generally holds for different specifications and other robustness checks.

Determinants of Various Aspects of Smoking Behavior in the United States,” (with Rajeev Goel) Applied Economics Letters, Volume 18, Issue 17, 2011.

Using state-level data for the United States, this study uniquely examines the effects of cigarette prices and income on seven dimensions of smoking behaviour. Results show that income-based policies are relatively more effective than price- or tax-based policies. Smokers considering quitting smoking respond in expected ways to changing cigarette prices and income. Strong habit effects in most cases stress the need for early intervention programmes.

Working Papers/Works in Progress

“Morale Hazard: How Reductions in Job Security Affect Teacher Effort.”

Recently, many school districts have introduced policies that affect teacher job security. This study looks at the unintended consequences of one such policy on teacher effort. In March 2010, the Rockford Public School district (RPS) announced a restructuring policy that removed all job security from untenured teachers and gave their principals control over whether a teacher returned to his or her same position. Using data from the RPS and Illinois State Board of Education, I utilize a difference-in-difference identification strategy to estimate the effect of the announcement of this policy on untenured teacher effort. Both ordinary least squares and Poisson quasi-maximum likelihood estimation methods find that the teachers affected by the policy applied lower effort. I hypothesize that this effect is due either to lower teacher morale or a principal tip-off effect. However, the principal tip-off effect is ruled out when empirical test show no statistical change in effort in teachers that were in the same position the following year. This suggests that the district-level restructuring policy lead to lower teacher morale which, in turn, led to lower teacher effort.

“Achievement Responses to Student Proficiency Ratings.” (with Scott Imberman).