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Current Work

Healy, Olivia J., and Jennifer A. Heissel. 2021. Baby Bumps in the Road: The Impact of Parenthood on Job Performance, Human Capital, and Career Advancement

Elevator Pitch: We evaluate the impact of parenthood on men and women’s job performance, human capital accumulation, and career advancement using detailed data from the U.S. Marines. We compare parents to otherwise similar individuals - who joined at the same time, are of the same rank, do similar jobs, have similar education levels, etc. We show that both new mothers and new fathers have large drops in physical performance following birth - but the drops are much larger and longer-lasting for mothers. Moreover, mothers' job performance evaluations, training, and promotions rates slow, while fathers' if anything improve over time. Using sudden policy changes to the length of paid maternity leave, we show that longer leaves exacerbate declines in women’s job-related physical fitness but do not consistently change their promotion trajectories. Our findings provide evidence that, even if mothers stay in the labor force and work similar hours following birth (as they do here), we would still see a child penalty emerge due to slower promotion rates. Here, those slowed promotion rates are at least partly driven by lower physical performance and missing key assessments used at promotion evaluations due to childbirth. Circulated as: SSRN Working Paper No 4030923Current Draft: April 2022

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Bacolod, Marigee, Jennifer A. Heissel, and Yu-Chu Shen. 2023. “Spatial Analysis of Access to Psychiatrists for U.S. Military Personnel and Their Families.” JAMA Network Open 6(1):e2249314.

Question : What is the geographic variation in the capacity of military and civilian psychiatrists within a 30-minute driving time of TRICARE (the US military’s health care program) beneficiaries’ communities, and how does a community’s likelihood of having a psychiatrist shortage differ between historically underserved and other communities?Findings: In this cohort study of 39 ,487 zip code communities between 2016 and 2020, 35% of TRICARE beneficiaries lived in communities with a shortage of both military and civilian psychiatrists and 6% of beneficiaries had no psychiatrists available within a 30-minute driving time. Beneficiaries in low-income communities with high income inequality and rural communities had the highest likelihood of experiencing a shortage of psychiatrists.Meaning : The study suggests that rural and economically disadvantaged communities need targeted strategies as the US Department of Defense considers realignment of military psychiatric capacity, because they cannot rely on civilian psychiatrists to fulfill the need gap for these shortage areas.Media: Washington Post, The Hill

Heissel, Jennifer A., Claudia Persico, and David Simon. 2022. “Does Pollution Drive Achievement? The Effect of Traffic Pollution on Academic Performance.” Journal of Human Resources. 57(3):747-776.

Elevator Pitch: We demonstrate that an unintended, and often unrecognized, cost of locating a school downwind of a highway are declines in student achievement due to increased traffic pollution exposure. We estimate that students who attend these schools experience a 0.04 standard deviation decrease in test scores, as well as higher incidences of grade repetition and behavioral incidents. We use a difference in differences strategy that leverages within student changes as a student moves through the Florida school system, switching schools from upwind to downwind. This strategy makes before versus after school change comparisons, conditional on both schools being near the highway and in the same zip-code. We conclude that being downwind of a highway causes a 25% increase in traffic emissions implying that a 10% increase in daily exposure to pollution over the school years leads to a 0.016 standard deviation decline in test scores. We are one of the first papers to estimate how year-to-year variation in traffic pollution influences child achievement. Additionally, these findings lend insight into how even within zip codes, microclimates within neighborhoods can contribute to inequality in human capital outcomes. Media: Real Time Economics (Wall Street Journal), Brookings Brown Center Chalkboard (1), Brookings Brown Center Chalkboard (2), Chalkbeat (1), Chalkbeat (2), Pacific Standard, CityLab, Capitalisn't (Chicago Booth Review), Bloomberg, Hechinger Report, IZA NewsroomPreviously Circulated As: Working Paper No. 25489, National Bureau of Economic Research AND Working Paper No. 12745, IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Bacolod, Marigee, Jennifer A. Heissel, Maj. Laura Laurita, LCDR Matthew Molloy, and Ryan Sullivan. 2022. “Mothers in the military: Effect of of Maternity Leave Policy on Take-up." Demography. 59(2):40-72.

Elevator Pitch: The United States remains the only OECD nation without national paid maternity leave. This paper exploits changes in paid maternity leave offered by one of the United States’ largest employers, the U.S. Department of Defense. Since 2015, the Marine Corps shifted their policy from six to 18 to 12 weeks. As expected, leave expansions increased leave duration while policy contractions decreased the amount of maternity leave taken by active-duty service members. In addition, we find the policy changes crowded out other forms of leave. That is, with an increase in maternity leave available, mothers in the military increased their amount of maternity leave and stopped supplementing with additional annual leaves as mothers in the six-week policy period had. Though all mothers used the full six weeks of leave in the early period, it is the less advantaged mothers–in the enlisted (worker) ranks, first-time, and single mothers–who disproportionately used more of the additional leave than officers (managers), experienced mothers, and married mothers. Our results provide evidence that the true cost of such programs may be lower than the mere number of weeks provided by additional maternity leave allowances. Previously circulated as: SSRN Working Paper No 3650372

Bacolod, Marigee, Jennifer A. Heissel, and Ansley White. 2022. "Job Performance When Workers Work in Locations They Prefer." Applied Economics Letters.

Elevator Pitch: We estimate the causal effect of working in a preferred job location on worker productivity. Using a difference-in-differences approach and data from the U.S. Marine Corps, we find that subsequent job performance improves among top performers assigned to their preferred job locations relative to average and bottom performers. In addition, the job performance of those whose preferred locations enhance firm-specific human capital also increases. Our findings have implications that extend beyond the military case and provide useful insights into the post-pandemic workplace likely to comprise a larger share of remote workers.Draft: June 2021

Heissel, Jennifer A. 2021. “Teen Fertility and Siblings’ Outcomes: Evidence of Family Spillovers Using Matched Samples.” Journal of Human Resources. 56(1):40-72.

Elevator Pitch: Despite extensive literature on teen mothers and their children, almost no research examines the effects of teen fertility on the rest of the mother's family. I address this gap, finding that teen birth negatively affects mothers’ younger siblings. Using several matched control methods, I find that sisters of new teenage mothers experience a decrease in test scores, an increase in grade repetition, and an increase high school dropout, while brothers experience an increase in juvenile justice system exposure. Media: With a Side of Knowledge (podcast hosted by Ted Fox of the University of Notre Dame), JHR News & Research Highlights Draft: March 2019 (Original Draft September 2016)

Heissel, Jennifer A., Emma K. Adam, Jennifer L. Doleac, David N. Figlio, and Jonathan Meer. 2019. “Testing, Stress, and Performance: How Students Respond Physiologically to High-stakes Testing.” Education Finance and Policy. 16(2):183-208.

Elevator Pitch: We examine how students’ physiological stress differs between a regular school week and a high-stakes testing week, and we raise questions about how to interpret high-stakes test scores. A potential contributor to socioeconomic disparities in academic performance is the difference in the level of stress experienced by students outside of school. Chronic stress – due to neighborhood violence, poverty, or family instability – can affect how individuals’ bodies respond to stressors in general, including the stress of standardized testing. This, in turn, can affect whether performance on standardized tests is a valid measure of students’ actual ability. We collect data on students’ stress responses using cortisol samples provided by low-income students in New Orleans. We measure how their cortisol patterns change during high-stakes testing weeks relative to baseline weeks. We find that high-stakes testing is related to cortisol responses, and those responses are related to test performance. Those who responded most strongly – with either increases or decreases in cortisol – scored 0.40 standard deviations lower than expected on the on the high-stakes exam. Media: NBER Digest, Chalkbeat, Business InsiderPreviously Circulated As: Working Paper No. 25305, National Bureau of Economic Research

Gazze, Ludovica, and Jennifer A. Heissel. 2020. “Infrastructure Upgrades and Lead Exposure: Do Cities Face Trade-offs When Replacing Water Mains?” Journal of Environmental Economics and Management. 108.

Elevator Pitch: Concerns about drinking water contamination through lead service lines may hinder resource-constrained municipalities from performing important infrastructure upgrades. Construction on water mains may shake the service lines and increase lead levels in drinking water. We estimate the effects of water main maintenance on drinking water and children’s blood levels exploiting over 2,500 water main replacements in Chicago, a city with almost 400,000 lead service lines, and unique geocoded data. By comparing tests in homes at different distances from replaced mains before and after replacement, we find no evidence that water main replacement affects water or children's lead levels.Previously circulated as: Working Paper No. 3651179, SSRN Previous Draft: August 2020

Combs, Elizabeth K., Anna S. Dahlman, Nita L. Shattuck, Jennifer A. Heissel, and Lynn Whitaker. 2021. “Comparison of Physiological and Cognitive Performance in F-22 Pilots During Day and Night Flying.” Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance. 95(5):303-311.

Background: Many workers routinely transition between day and night shifts—including pilots, where night flights are commonly considered more stressful. The physiological toll from this transition is not fully understood for pilots, though fatigue is a factor in many aviation accidents. This research investigated the changes in physiological markers of stress and cognitive performance as F-22 pilots transitioned from short-term to night-flying weeks. Methods: Seventeen fully-qualified F-22 pilots took part in a two-week data collection using salivary swabs, wrist-worn activity monitors, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration-Task Load Index (NASA-TLX) inventory, and a go/no-go (GNG) test developed by Naval Medical Research Unit at Dayton. Results: No differences were found in GNG reaction time or accuracy, NASA-TLX scores, or sleep quantity as participants transitioned to night-flying weeks. Cortisol levels were significantly higher than civilian levels in all experimental conditions and control days. Participants had higher-than-predicted cortisol levels post-flight in the day-flying condition and lower-than-predicted cortisol levels post-flight in the night-flying condition, relative to levels from control day patterns. We also found smaller changes in cortisol (pre- to post-flight) in the day-flying condition for those with more F-22 experience. Finally, we found lower Perceived Stress Survey for older pilots. Discussion: We hypothesized that the night-flying environment would be more stressful, but our results disputed this claim. Our results suggest day-flying elicits more of a stress response; however, a larger sample size is required to verify results. Preliminary findings of potential stress adaptation may suggest stress adaptation in the F-22 community needs further investigation.

Heissel, Jennifer A., and Samuel Norris. 2018. “Rise and Shine: The Effect of School Start Times on Academic Performance from Childhood through Puberty.” Journal of Human Resources 53 (4): 957–92.

Elevator Pitch: We analyze the effect of school start time on academic performance. Sleep patterns are determined in part by sunrise times, which vary across time zones. Because school start times do not fully reflect this difference, we instrument for the hours of sunlight before school with the time zone boundary in Florida. We find that moving start times one hour later relative to sunrise increases math and reading test scores. In math, the effect is larger for older children and co-varies with entry into an important pubertal stage. School districts can improve performance while maintaining the current distribution of start times by moving classes earlier for younger children and later for older children.Draft: April 2017 (Original Draft January 2015)Media: The Atlantic, Brookings Evidence Speaks Series, Chalkbeat, Education Next (1), Education Next (2), Wisconsin Public Radio, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Education Dive

Heissel, Jennifer A., and Helen F. Ladd. 2018. “School Turnaround in North Carolina: A Regression Discontinuity Analysis.” Economics of Education Review 62: 302–20.

Elevator Pitch: This paper examines the effect of school turnaround in North Carolina elementary and middle schools. Using a regression discontinuity design, we find that turnaround led to a drop in average school-level math and reading passing rates and an increased concentration of low-income students in treated schools. We use teacher survey data to examine how teacher activities changed. Treated schools brought in new principals and increased the time teachers devoted to professional development. The program also increased administrative burdens and distracted teachers, potentially reducing time available for instruction. Teacher turnover increased after the first full year of implementation. Overall, we find little success for North Carolina’s efforts to turn around low-performing schools under its federally funded Race to the Top grant.Current Draft: August 2017 (Original draft November 2014); also available at the Calder CenterMedia: The News & Observer, Education Next, The 74

Heissel, Jennifer A., Patrick T. Sharkey, Gerard Torrats‐Espinosa, Kathryn Grant, and Emma K. Adam. 2018. “Violence and Vigilance: The Acute Effects of Community Violent Crime on Sleep and Cortisol.” Child Development 89 (4): e323–31.

Elevator Pitch: The study examined whether sleep and cortisol changed in the day following a nearby violent crime, relative to an adolescents' typical observed levels. On the night following a violent crime, children have later bedtimes, as well as disrupted cortisol patterns the following morning. Draft: May 2017 (Original Draft December 2015)Media: Sleep Review, The Guardian, US News & World Report (reprinted in Billings Gazette, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Lincoln Journal Star, Winona Daily News, Northwest Indiana Times), Chicago Tonight, MedPage Today, Business Standard, Medical News Today, MedIndia, EurekAlert (AAAS), Science Newsline, Child & Family Blog, DNAinfo, WFMZ-TV News, Undark

Heissel, Jennifer A., Dorainne J. Levy, and Emma K. Adam. 2017. “Stress, Sleep, and Performance on Standardized Tests: Understudied Pathways to the Achievement Gap.” AERA Open 3 (3): 1–17.

Elevator Pitch: The consequences of exposure to stressful events can negatively affect cognitive performance and demonstrated academic ability. Stress exposure affects multiple biological systems, including sleep and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Sleep and cortisol, the primary hormonal product of the HPA axis, have a bidirectional relationship. In turn, both sleep and cortisol affect cognitive performance. To fully understand achievement gaps, we must also understand how stressful events and their effects on biological processes affect cognitive outcomes for different groups of students. Effects can occur either through stress exposure that occurs during the learning process or in response to the acute stress of testing. Interventions to limit stress exposure, reduce perceived stress, and improve sleep, particularly in low-income and minority students, may help students arrive in the classroom better prepared to learn and to perform optimally on tests. Draft: May 2017 (Original Draft December 2012).

Tavernier, Royette, Jennifer A. Heissel, Michael R. Sladek, Kathryn E. Grant, and Emma K. Adam. 2017. “Adolescents’ Technology and Face-to-Face Time Use Predict Objective Sleep Outcomes.” Sleep Health 3 (4): 276–83.

Elevator Pitch: The study examined within- and between-person effects of adolescents’ technology and face-to-face time use on sleep latency, sleep hours, and sleep efficiency. Texting, watching TV, playing video games, and computer use were negatively associated with sleep, while more time spent with friends was associated with higher sleep efficiency particularly for younger adolescents.Draft: March 2016 (Original Draft March 2016)

Levy, Dorainne J., Jennifer A. Heissel, Jennifer A. Richeson, and Emma K. Adam. 2016. “Psychological and Biological Responses to Race-Based Social Stress as Pathways to Disparities in Educational Outcomes.” American Psychologist 71 (6): 455–73.

Elevator Pitch: We present the race-based disparities in stress and sleep in context model. We argue that racial/ethnic disparities in educational achievement and attainment are partially explained by the effects of race-based stressors, such as stereotype threat and perceived discrimination, on psychological and biological responses to stress, which, in turn, impact cognitive functioning and academic performance. Media : The Nation, The Atlantic, Fortune, Science Daily

Heissel, Jennifer A. 2016. “The Relative Benefits of Live versus Online Delivery: Evidence from Virtual Algebra I in North Carolina.” Economics of Education Review 53 (8): 99–115.

Elevator Pitch: The paper exploits a district policy change that suddenly shifted advanced eighth graders into a virtual classroom for Algebra I. Eighth grade virtual students tend to under-perform relative to what would be expected from such high-achieving students.Media: Education Week, NPR Education, The 74Draft: April 2016 (Original Draft December 2011)

Adam, Emma K., Jennifer A. Heissel, Katharine H. Zeiders, Jennifer A. Richeson, Emily C. Ross, Katherine B. Ehrlich, Dorainne J. Levy, et al. 2015. “Developmental Histories of Perceived Racial Discrimination and Diurnal Cortisol Profiles in Adulthood: A 20-Year Prospective Study.” Psychoneuroendocrinology 62: 279–91.

Elevator Pitch: Perceived racial discrimination (PRD) has been associated with altered diurnal cortisol rhythms in past cross-sectional research. We investigate whether developmental histories of PRD, assessed prospectively, are associated with adult diurnal cortisol profiles. Although results suggest PRD influences on cortisol for both Blacks and Whites, the key findings suggest that the effects are more pervasive for Blacks, affecting multiple aspects of the cortisol diurnal rhythm. In addition, adolescence is a more sensitive developmental period than adulthood for the impacts of PRD on adult stress biology.Media : The New York Times, Pacific Standard, The Louisiana Weekly, Boston Globe, Mother Jones, Science Daily, The New Yorker

Other Publications (not peer reviewed)

Healy, Olivia J., and Jennifer A. Heissel. 2022. “Gender Disparities in Career Advancement across the Transition to Parenthood: Evidence from the Marine Corps.” American Economic Association: Papers and Proceedings 112: 561-67.

Abstract: We isolate the effect of childbirth on mothers' and fathers' job-relevant physical performance using data from the US Marines. We estimate event study models around the first birth. We assign "placebo births" to non-parents using LASSO-selected predictors of parenthood to estimate counterfactual trends. We find large and persistent effects of motherhood on performance. Two years postbirth, mothers' physical performance remains 0.2 standard deviations lower than non-mothers'. For fathers, the birth also initially lowers performance, but fathers are able to recover. This research demonstrates a potential mechanism behind the child penalty to mothers' earnings. Draft: March 2022

Heissel, Jennifer A., and Olivia J. Healy. 2021. Research Evidence Related to the Servicemember Parental Leave Equity Act. San Francisco, CA: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – Evidence for Action Research & Findings.

Comins, Aaron, Chad Seagren, C., & Jennifer A. Heissel. 2020. “The Navy needs a fully baked plan for cannabis legalization.” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 146 (1): 1,403.

Heissel, J.A., & Norris, S. (2019). « Rise and Shine: How Start Times Affect Academic Performance.” Education Next 19 (3): 8-13.

Media : EdNext Podcast (with Marty West)

Shen, Yu-Chu, Jesse M. Cunha, and Jennifer A. Heissel. 2019. “Analysis of unit variation and peer influence of destructive behaviors in the U.S. military.” (Technical Report No. NPS-GSDM-20-002). Naval Postgraduate School.

Heissel, Jennifer A. 2017. “Teenage Motherhood and Sibling Outcomes.” American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings 107 (5): 633–37.

Abstract: Using annual longitudinal data, I show that all children in families with teen childbearing are on a downward trajectory several years before pregnancy begins. Compared to students on similar trajectories from families without teenage childbearing, siblings of teen mothers have lower test scores, higher high school dropout, and higher juvenile justice system exposure following the birth. The change in test score outcomes occurs after the baby is born, indicating that the child's arrival affects performance, rather than some unobserved occurrence leading to both teen pregnancy and poor outcomes. The test scores for teen mothers drop in the year of pregnancy.

*Adam, Emma K., Jennifer A. Heissel, Emily F. Hittner, Jennifer L. Doleac, Jonathan Meer, and David Figlio. 2017. “Adolescent Cortisol Responses to High-Stakes Testing in School-Based Settings.” Psychoneuroendocrinology 83 (Supplement): 85.