Children Left Behind: The Effects of Statewide Job Loss on Student Achievement
NBER Working Paper No. 17104
Given the magnitude of the recent recession, and the high-stakes testing the U.S. has implemented under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), it is important to understand the effects of large-scale job losses on student achievement. We examine the effects of state-level job losses on fourth- and eighth-grade test scores, using federal Mass Layoff Statistics and 1996-2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress data. Results indicate that job losses decrease scores. Effects are larger for eighth than fourth graders and for math than reading assessments, and are robust to specification checks. Job losses to 1% of a state’s working-age population lead to a .076 standard deviation decrease in the state’s eighth-grade math scores. This result is an order of magnitude larger than those found in previous studies that have compared students whose parents lose employment to otherwise similar students, suggesting that downturns affect all students, not just students who experience parental job loss. Our findings have important implications for accountability schemes: we calculate that a state experiencing one-year job losses to 2% of its workers (a magnitude observed in seven states) likely sees a 16% increase in the share of its schools failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress under NCLB.
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This paper was revised on June 21, 2011