Class Notes: Supporting community college students, teachers’ gender bias, 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:

    • The City University of New York’s (CUNY) Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) program boosted graduation rates significantly and helped students graduate more quickly.
    • The introduction of mandatory waiting periods causes a significant increase in the share of abortions obtained during the second trimester.
    • Teacher stereotypes induce girls to underperform in math and self-select into less-demanding high schools.
    • Using a recent New York Times publication as an example, our top chart shows that certain definitions of the middle class capture individuals with incomes markedly higher than median household income at the city, state, and national level.
    • Caitlin Zaloom describes how paying for college is changing middle-class life.
    • Finally, check out the piece I wrote with Christopher Pulliam and Ashley Schobert “Are wages rising, falling, or stagnating?”, which shows the critical role methodology plays when describing wage trends.

Supporting community college students from start to degree completion: Long-term evidence from a randomized trial of CUNY’s ASAP

Nationwide, graduation rates at community colleges are discouragingly low. However, in this study, Weiss et al. provide evidence that graduation rates can be dramatically improved. Using data from CUNY’s ASAP—a comprehensive, integrated, 3-year program designed to help community college students complete their degrees—the authors show that the program increased 3-year graduation rates by nearly twenty percentage points, 6-year graduation rates by 10 percentage points, and reduced the average amount of time taken to earn a credential. Effects of this size are exceptional in higher-education experiments, offering hope of what is possible when serving disadvantaged students.

New evidence on the effects of mandatory waiting periods for abortion

In this paper, Lindo et al. evaluate the effects of a Tennessee law enacted in 2015 that requires women to make an additional trip to an abortion provider for state-directed counseling at least 48 hours before they can obtain an abortion. The introduction of the mandatory waiting period caused a 62 percent increase in the share of abortions obtained during the second trimester, completely closing the pre-existing gap between Tennessee and the comparison states. An analysis of the overall abortion rate also suggests that waiting periods may result in a decline, though the estimates are imprecise.

Implicit stereotypes: Evidence from teachers’ gender bias

In this study, Michaela Carlana tests whether exposure to teacher stereotypes, as measured by the Gender-Science Implicit Association Test, affects student achievement. The results suggest that the gender gap in math performance substantially increases when students are assigned to math teachers with stronger gender stereotypes. Indeed, teacher stereotypes induce girls to underperform in math and self-select into less demanding high schools, following the track recommendation of their teachers. These effects are found to be at least partially driven by lower self-confidence among girls exposed to gender-biased teachers.

Top chart

In July, the  New York Times  published a long piece on middle-class life in America, highlighting seven families with annual incomes ranging from $75,000 to $400,000. This week’s top chart shows that the incomes of the families in the piece exceeded median household income on the city, state, and national level:

Middle Class Income

The Times piece and subsequent responses raised once again the thorny question of how best to define the “middle class”. For more information about the Future of the Middle Class Initiative’s definition, see our piece on defining the middle class.

Choice opinion

“For middle-class parents, the requirement to help pay for college is seen not merely as a budgetary challenge, but also as a moral obligation. The financial sacrifices required are both compelled and expected. They are what responsible parents should do for their children. Indeed, shouldering the weight of paying for college is sometimes seen by parents as part of their children’s moral education. By draining their savings to pay for college, parents affirm their commitment to education as a value, proving – to themselves and to others – that higher education is integral to the kind of family they are” writes Caitlin Zaloom in the New York Times.


In “Are wages rising, falling, or stagnating?”, Christopher Pulliam, Ashley Schobert, and I demonstrate that at least 24 different stories can be told about wage trends by varying (1) the time period (2) the inflation measure (3) the gender of the workers and (4) the portion of the income distribution considered. When it comes to describing wage trends in America, the need for precise and transparent methodology is great.