Evidence about the effects of neighborhood environments on children and youth is central to the design of a wide range of public policies. Armed with long-term survey data from the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) for Fair Housing demonstration final impacts evaluation (Sanbonmatsu et al., 2011), we have the opportunity to understand whether neighborhood poverty and related characteristics exert an independent causal effect on the life chances of young people. Findings from analyses of youth in the long-term survey for the final impacts evaluation show that MTO had few detectable effects on a range of schooling outcomes, even for those children who were of preschool age at study entry. MTO also had few detectable effects on physical health outcomes. In other youth outcome domains, patterns of effects on youth were similar to, but more muted than, those in the interim impacts evaluation (Orr et al., 2003), with favorable patterns among female youth—particularly on mental health outcomes—and less favorable patterns among male youth.
Adults living in high-poverty neighborhoods often fare worse than adults in more advantaged neighborhoods on their physical health, mental health, and economic well-being. Although social scientists have observed this association for hundreds of years, they have found it difficult to determine the extent to which the neighborhoods themselves affect well-being versus the extent to which people at greater risk for adverse outcomes live in impoverished neighborhoods. In this article, we examine neighborhood effects using data from the 10- to 15-year evaluation of the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) for Fair Housing demonstration, which offered randomly selected families a housing voucher. The experimental design of MTO allows us to isolate the effects of neighborhoods from selection bias. We find that, 10 to 15 years after enrolling participants, the program had very few detectable effects on economic well-being but had some substantial effects on the physical and mental health of adults. For adults whose families received the offer of a housing voucher that could be used to move only to a low-poverty neighborhood, we find health benefits in terms of lower prevalence of diabetes, extreme obesity, physical limitations, and psychological distress. For adults offered a Section 8 voucher, we find benefits in terms of less extreme obesity and lower prevalence of lifetime depression.
Labor market policies succeed or fail at least in part depending on how well they reflect or account for behavioral responses. Insights from behavioral economics, which allow for realistic deviations from standard economic assumptions about behavior, have consequences for the design and functioning of labor market policies. We review key implications of behavioral economics related to procrastination, difficulties in dealing with complexity, and potentially biased labor market expectations for the design of selected labor market policies including unemployment compensation, employment services and job search assistance, and job training.
Private for-profit institutions have been the fastest-growing part of the U.S. higher education sector. For-profit enrollment increased from 0.2 percent to 9.1 percent of total enrollment in degree-granting schools from 1970 to 2009, and for-profit institutions account for the majority of enrollments in non-degree-granting postsecondary schools. We describe the schools, students, and programs in the for-profit higher education sector, its phenomenal recent growth, and its relationship to the federal and state governments. Using the 2004 to 2009 Beginning Postsecondary Students (BPS) longitudinal survey, we assess outcomes of a recent cohort of first-time undergraduates who attended for-profits relative to comparable students who attended community colleges or other public or private non-profit institutions. We find that relative to these other institutions, for-profits educate a larger fraction of minority, disadvantaged, and older students, and they have greater success at retaining students in their first year and getting them to complete short programs at the certificate and AA levels. But we also find that for-profit students end up with higher unemployment and "idleness" rates and lower earnings six years after entering programs than do comparable students from other schools and that, not surprisingly, they have far greater default rates on their loans.
In the three decades from 1910 to 1940, the fraction of U.S. youths enrolled in public and private secondary schools increased from 18 to 71 percent and the fraction graduating soared from 9 to 51 percent. At the same time, state compulsory education and child labor legislation became more stringent and potentially constrained secondary-school aged youths. It might appear from the timing and the specifics of this history that the laws caused the increase in education rates. We evaluate the possibility that state compulsory schooling and child labor laws caused the increase in education rates by using contemporaneous evidence on enrollments. We also use micro-data from the 1960 census to examine the effect of the laws on overall educational attainment. Our estimation approach exploits cross-state differences in the timing of changes in state laws. We find that the expansion of state compulsory schooling and child labor laws from 1910 to 1939 can, at best, account for 5 percent of the increase in high school enrollments and can account for about the same portion of the increase in the eventual educational attainment for the affected cohorts over the period.
The history of coeducation in U.S. higher education is explored through an analysis of a database containing information on all institutions offering four-year undergraduate degrees that operated in 1897, 1924, 1934, or 1980, most of which still exist today. These data reveal surprises about the timing of coeducation and the reasons for its increase. Rather than being episodic and caused by financial pressures brought about by wars and recessions, the process of switching from single-sex to coeducational colleges was relatively continuous from 1835 to the 1950s before it accelerated (especially for Catholic institutions) in the 1960s and 1970s. We explore the empirical implications of a model of switching from single-sex education to coeducation in which schools that become coeducational lose donations from existing alumni. But by raising the quality of new students, a switch to coeducation increases other future revenues. We find that older and private single-sex institutions were slower to become coeducational and that institutions persisting as single sex into the 1970s had lower enrollment growth in the late 1960s and early 1970s than those that switched earlier. We also find that access to coeducational institutions in the first half of the twentieth century was associated with increased women’s educational attainment. Coeducation mattered to women's education throughout U.S. history and it mattered to a greater extent in the more distant past than in the more recent and celebrated period of change.
BACKGROUND The question of whether neighborhood environment contributes directly to the development of obesity and diabetes remains unresolved. The study reported on here uses data from a social experiment to assess the association of randomly assigned variation in neighborhood conditions with obesity and diabetes.
METHODS From 1994 through 1998, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) randomly assigned 4498 women with children living in public housing in highpoverty urban census tracts (in which ≥40% of residents had incomes below the federal poverty threshold) to one of three groups: 1788 were assigned to receive housing vouchers, which were redeemable only if they moved to a low-poverty census tract (where <10% of residents were poor), and counseling on moving; 1312 were assigned to receive unrestricted, traditional vouchers, with no special counseling on moving; and 1398 were assigned to a control group that was offered neither of these opportunities. From 2008 through 2010, as part of a long-term follow-up survey, we measured data indicating health outcomes, including height, weight, and level of glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c).
RESULTS As part of our long-term survey, we obtained data on body-mass index (BMI, the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters) for 84.2% of participants and data on glycated hemoglobin level for 71.3% of participants. Response rates were similar across randomized groups. The prevalences of a BMI of 35 or more, a BMI of 40 or more, and a glycated hemoglobin level of 6.5% or more were lower in the group receiving the low-poverty vouchers than in the control group, with an absolute difference of 4.61 percentage points (95% confidence interval [CI], −8.54 to −0.69), 3.38 percentage points (95% CI, −6.39 to −0.36), and 4.31 percentage points (95% CI, −7.82 to −0.80), respectively. The differences between the group receiving traditional vouchers and the control group were not significant.
CONCLUSIONS The opportunity to move from a neighborhood with a high level of poverty to one with a lower level of poverty was associated with modest but potentially important reductions in the prevalence of extreme obesity and diabetes. The mechanisms underlying these associations remain unclear but warrant further investigation, given their potential to guide the design of community-level interventions intended to improve health. (Funded by HUD and others.)
The careers of MBAs from a top US business school are studied to understand how career dynamics differ by gender. Although male and female MBAs have nearly identical earnings at the outset of their careers, their earnings soon diverge, with the male earnings advantage reaching almost 60 log points a decade after MBA completion. Three proximate factors account for the large and rising gender gap in earnings: differences in training prior to MBA graduation, differences in career interruptions, and differences in weekly hours. The greater career discontinuity and shorter work hours for female MBAs are largely associated with motherhood.
A recent “revisionist” literature characterizes the pronounced rise in U.S. wage inequality since 1980 as an “episodic” event of the first half of the 1980s driven by nonmarket factors (particularly a falling real minimum wage) and concludes that continued increases in wage inequality since the late 1980s substantially reflect the mechanical confounding effects of changes in labor force composition. Analyzing data from the Current Population Survey for 1963 to 2005, we find limited support for these claims. The slowing of the growth of overall wage inequality in the 1990s hides a divergence in the paths of upper-tail (90/50) inequality—which has increased steadily since 1980, even adjusting for changes in labor force composition—and lower-tail (50/10) inequality, which rose sharply in the first half of the 1980s and plateaued or contracted thereafter. Fluctuations in the real minimum wage are not a plausible explanation for these trends since the bulk of inequality growth occurs above the median of the wage distribution. Models emphasizing rapid secular growth in the relative demand for skills—attributable to skill-biased technical change—and a sharp deceleration in the relative supply of college workers in the 1980s do an excellent job of capturing the evolution of the college/high school wage premium over four decades. But these models also imply a puzzling deceleration in relative demand growth for college workers in the early 1990s, also visible in a recent “polarization” of skill demands in which employment has expanded in high-wage and low-wage work at the expense of middle-wage jobs. These patterns are potentially reconciled by a modified version of the skill-biased technical change hypothesis that emphasizes the role of information technology in complementing abstract (high-education) tasks and substituting for routine (middle-education) tasks.