Working Paper Series

  • The Effect of Pension Income on Elderly Earnings: Evidence from Social Security and Full Population Data (revise and resubmit, Quarterly Journal of Economics)

    Alexander Gelber, Adam Isen, Jae Song

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (May 2016)

  • Firm Regulations and Employment: Evidence from Administrative Data

    Alexander Gelber, Adam Isen

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (May 2016)

  • Reducing Student Absences at Scale

    Avi Feller, Todd Rogers

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (February 2016)

  • School Finance Reform and the Distribution of Student Achievement

    Jesse Rothstein, Julien Lafortune, Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (February 2016)

    We study the impact of post-1990 school finance reforms, during the so-called “adequacy” era, on gaps in spending and achievement between high-income and low-income school districts. Using an event study design, we find that reform events—court orders and legislative reforms—lead to sharp, immediate, and sustained increases in absolute and relative spending in low-income school districts. Using representative samples from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, we also find that reforms cause gradual increases in the relative achievement of students in low-income school districts, consistent with the goal of improving educational opportunity for these students. The implied effect of school resources on educational achievement is large. 

  • The Effects of High-Skilled Immigration Policy on Firms: Evidence from Visa Lotteries (revise and resubmit, Journal of Political Economy)

    Alexander Gelber, Kirk Doran, Adam Isen

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (February 2016)

  • Why SNAP Matters

    Hilary Hoynes

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (January 2016)

  • The Measurement of Student Ability in Modern Assessment Systems

    Jesse Rothstein, Brian Jacob

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (January 2016)

  • Risk, Race, & Recidivism: Predictive Bias and Disparate Impact

    Jennifer Skeem, Christopher T. Lowenkamp

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (November 2015)

    One way to unwind mass incarceration without compromising public safety is to use risk assessment instruments in sentencing and corrections. These instruments figure prominently in current reforms, but controversy has begun to swirl around their use. The principal concern is that benefits in crime control will be offset by costs in social justice — a disparate and adverse effect on racial minorities and the poor. Based on a sample of 34,794 federal offenders, we empirically examine the relationships among race (Black vs. White), actuarial risk assessment (the Post Conviction Risk Assessment [PCRA]), and re-arrest (for any/violent crime). First, application of well-established principles of psychological science revealed no real evidence of test bias for the PCRA — the instrument strongly predicts re-arrest for both Black and White offenders and a given score has essentially the same meaning — i.e., same probability of recidivism — across groups. Second, Black offenders obtain modestly higher average scores on the PCRA than White offenders (d = .43; appx. 27% non-overlap in groups’ scores). So some applications of the PCRA could create disparate impact — which is defined by moral rather than empirical criteria. Third, most (69%) of the racial difference in PCRA scores is attributable to criminal history — which strongly predicts recidivism for both groups and is embedded in sentencing guidelines. Finally, criminal history is not a proxy for race — instead, it fully mediates the otherwise weak relationship between race and re-arrest. Data may be more helpful than rhetoric, if the goal is to improve practice at this opportune moment in history.