Class Notes: Increasing low-income applicants to selective colleges, paid family leave, and more

People walk on the esplanade of La Defense, in the financial and business district, west of Paris, France, October 6, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau - RC1B9BB86D30
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This week in Class Notes:

Reducing complexity in financial aid offers increases application to selective colleges for low-income, high-achieving students

High-achieving, low-income students attend selective colleges at far lower rates than high-income students with similar academic achievement levels. Part of this gap can be explained by the fact that most of the high-achieving, low-income students never even apply to selective schools, despite the potential benefits. Insights from behavioral economics suggest that small changes to the framing of college application choices may have large effects on students’ decisions. Further evidence comes from Susan Dynarski and her coauthors* who identified 2,000 low-income, high-achieving high school students from public high schools in Michigan. Half were mailed a personalized letter encouraging them to apply to the state’s flagship university – the University of Michigan – and pledging four years of free tuition and fees. The letter had very large effects on application decisions. Both the likelihood of applying to the University of Michigan and the share of students enrolling at a highly selective college more than doubled. Notably, the letter did not increase the amount of financial aid offered by the school – it simply guaranteed and highlighted aid that they would qualify for in the event of being admitted.


*And, not to brag or anything, but one of them – Stephanie Owen – is a Brookings Center on Children and Families alumnus!

Career and Technical Education (CTE) high schools increase graduation rates and earnings for male students but have no noticeable effects for females

There is a growing interest in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, which offer career-specific skills training for K-12 students: in 2015, seven million high school students were enrolled in a CTE program. Eric Brunner and his coauthors measure the effects of attending a CTE high school on educational attainment and labor market outcomes, using student data from all 16 schools in the Connecticut Technical High School System (CTHSS). They compare the outcomes of CTHSS student to those of similar students in non-CTE schools, between 2006 and 2013. They find that male students enrolled in CTHSS were 10 percentage points more likely to graduate from high school than their non-CTE peers. Male students also experienced a 44% increase in total earnings after high school, and an increase in the number of quarters with any labor market earnings. In the short run, male students are slightly less likely to attend college, but these effects disappear in the long run. Interestingly, the study finds no statistically significant effects at all for females enrolled in CTE schools.

Paid family leave increases labor force participation for individuals and their family members following a negative health shock

The onset of a major health problem or disability can affect the labor supply of both the individual experiencing the shock and potentially other family members, who might have to provide informal care at home. Could paid leave help? To answer this question, Priyanka Anand and her coauthors use data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) to measure labor force participation levels for individuals in the months after their spouse experienced a negative health shock. The data shows that spouses and potential caregivers reduce their labor supply, and these negative labor effects persist over time. But by using a difference-in-difference research design, the authors show that family caregivers living in states with paid family leave are less likely to decrease their work hours than those living in states without it.

Top chart: Americans think that some corporations and wealthy people don’t pay their fair share of taxes

This week’s top chart shows that the main concerns Americans have about the federal tax system are pretty simple: some corporations and wealthy people don’t pay their fair share. By contrast, very few people are worried that poor people aren’t doing so.


Choice opinion: America’s higher education system is not designed to help student-parents succeed

“America’s higher-education system is not set up for student-parents to succeed… [A] truly inclusive college environment for parents would require schools to consider them in all aspects of campus life, not just housing and child care. To have a broader impact, institutions would need to include student-parents in their diversity and equity efforts, and address how every step of getting into college and attaining a degree might present challenges, from enrollment practices to financial-aid procedures to everyday treatment in the classroom,” argues Nicole Lynn Lewis.

Self-promotion: Low birth rates in the US are here to stay for the foreseeable future

Official U.S. birth data for 2020 shows that birth rates have been falling almost continuously for more than a decade. The total fertility rate, which measures the average total number of children a woman will ever have, fell from 2.12 in 2007 to 1.64 in 2020. This lies below the 2.1 total fertility rate considered to be the minimum rate needed for the population to maintain its size (without immigration flows). However, total fertility rate estimates that are derived from annual birth data can be inaccurate. If women are having the same total number of kids over, but later in life, total fertility estimates could be biased downward. To understand if current low birth rates will persist into the future, Melissa S. Kearney and Phillip Levine track the birth histories of different cohorts of women over the past 30 years. They find that successively younger cohorts of women are having fewer births at all observed ages. This means that women born in 2000 are having many fewer children at every age than women born in 1975 and they are unlikely to catch up in the coming decades. In other words, they conclude, low birth rates and low fertility rates “are probably here to stay for the foreseeable future.”

For your calendar: Attend virtual seminars on health equity among boys and men of color, as well as alternatives to policing for protecting communities of color

The State of Health Equity among Boys and Men of Color Summit and Ideas Lab

Tuesday, June 8 – Thursday, June 10, 2021

UConn Health Disparities Institute

Strategies for Protecting Communities of Color in the DMV Region: Defunding the Police and Exploring Other Alternatives to Policing

3:00 – 4:00 PM EDT on Thursday, June 10, 2021

Urban Institute

The Gurian Summer Training Institute Tele-Summit 2021

Saturday, June 26 – Sunday, June 27, 2021

Gurian Institute