Schools and Their Multiple Ways to Impact Students: a Structural Model of Skill Accumulation and Educational Choices (Job Market paper)

Appendix (coming soon)

This paper studies how the school environment affects students' cognitive skills and educational attainment. I estimate a dynamic structural model of cognitive skills accumulation and schooling decisions of students enrolled in lower secondary education, using rich administrative dataset for the universe of public schools in Barcelona. Its key feature is that it allows me to separately identify the different channels through which schools affect student outcomes. I find large variation across schools both in their effect on cognitive skills development, and in their effects on students' educational choices above and beyond their level of cognitive skills. School environment is particularly relevant for choices of students with disadvantaged family background. Moreover their probabilities of graduating or enrolling in upper secondary education if they attend a given middle school have limited correlation with their expected performance in that school. Results suggest that evaluating and comparing schools using only nation-wide assessments may not favor disadvantaged students, who particularly benefit from schools which increase educational attainment, not only test scores.

Grading on a Curve: When Having Good Peers is Not Good (with Caterina Calsamiglia, submitted)

Student access to education levels, tracks or majors is usually determined by their previous performance, measured either by internal exams, designed and graded by teachers in school, or external exams, designed and graded by central authorities. We say teachers grade on a curve whenever having better peers harms the evaluation obtained by a given student. We use rich administrative records from public schools in Catalonia to provide evidence that teachers indeed grade on a curve, leading to negative peer effects. This puts forth a source of distortion that may arise in any system that uses internal grades to compare students across schools and classes. We find suggestive evidence that school choice is impacted only the year when internal grades matter for future prospects.

Maturity and School Outcomes in an Inflexible System: Evidence from Catalonia (with Caterina Calsamiglia, submitted)

Having a unique cut-off to determine when children can access school induces a large heterogeneity in maturity to coexist in a classroom. We use very rich data on performance in internal and external evaluations in public schools in Catalonia to show that: 1) Relatively younger children do significantly worse both in internal and external evaluations and experience greater retention, although the effect is decreasing as children become older; 2) Younger children in our data exhibit higher dropout rates and chose the academic track in secondary school less often; 3) Heterogeneity analysis: the effect is homogeneous across SES and significant across the whole ability distribution; 4) Younger children are more frequently diagnosed with learning disabilities.


Misperceptions of unemployment and individual labor market outcomes (with Ana Rute Cardoso and Lavinia Piemontese) IZA Journal of Labor Policy 2016 5:13

We analyze the impact of misperceptions of the unemployment rate on individual wages, using the European Social Survey. We follow a threefold strategy to tackle potential endogeneity problems, as the model includes the following: controls for worker’s ability, the regional unemployment rate, and country fixed effects. We estimate interval regression models. When subjective perceptions overstate the country unemployment rate, a one percentage point gap between the perceived and the actual rates reduces wages by 0.4 to 0.7 %. We discuss a potential mechanism. A pessimistic view of the labor market leads to concern over own employment prospects, lowering perceived bargaining power and reservation wages.


La heterogeneidad madurativa en el aula y los posibles costes de un sistema inflexible (with Caterina Calsamiglia) Revista Indice June 2015