NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Heat and Learning

Joshua Goodman, Michael Hurwitz, Jisung Park, Jonathan Smith

NBER Working Paper No. 24639
Issued in May 2018, Revised in November 2019
NBER Program(s):Economics of Education Program, Environment and Energy Program, Labor Studies Program

We demonstrate that heat inhibits learning and that school air-conditioning may mitigate this effect. Student fixed effects models using 10 million PSAT-retakers show hotter school days in years before the test reduce scores, with extreme heat being particularly damaging. Weekend and summer temperature has little impact, suggesting heat directly disrupts learning time. New nationwide, school-level measures of air-conditioning penetration suggest patterns consistent with such infrastructure largely offsetting heat’s effects. Without air-conditioning, a 1°F hotter school year reduces that year’s learning by one percent. Hot school days disproportionately impact minority students, accounting for roughly five percent of the racial achievement gap.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24639

 
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