[Previously circulated as: "The Effect of Teachers' Unions on Student Achievement: Evidence from Wisconsin's Act 10"]

Media Coverage: CNN Money, Chalkbeat, Slate, Center for American Progress

Abstract: This study examines the short-run impact of a weakening of teachers’ unions on student achievement. In 2011, Wisconsin enacted the Budget Repair Bill, or Act 10, which significantly limited the power of teachers’ unions in the state by restricting their fundraising abilities and limiting the scope of collective bargaining. Exploiting plausibly exogenous variation in the timing of exposure to Act 10 due to differences in the expiration dates of pre-existing collective bargaining agreements across school districts, I find that the law reduced average test scores on the state’s standardized exam by approximately 20% of a standard deviation. Results from quantile regressions indicate that this effect was largely driven by declines in the lower half of the student achievement distribution. Lastly, the study explores plausible mechanisms behind the observed decline in achievement, and presents evidence that the law led to a significant increase in teacher turnover and a large reduction in teacher salaries.

Working paper version

Media Coverage: Forbes, The New York Times

Abstract: In contrast to the observed convergence in incomes between high- and low- income areas throughout much of the 20th century, recent decades have seen an increased clustering of economic activity that has led to diverging fortunes of different places. This phenomenon has revived interested in place-based policies that seek to revitalize lagging communities. Perhaps due to the widely held perception that high-tech clusters around the United States owe much of their success to neighboring universities, establishing research universities in lagging communities is increasingly being considered as a potential place-based policy. This policy proposal seeks to shed light on the potential role of research universities as anchor institutions for local economic development. After carefully analyzing data and reviewing the literature, we propose that instead of establishing a new research university, lagging communities should focus on transferring productivity-enhancing knowledge to their local employers from existing research universities near their regions. To help achieve this goal, we propose a regionally targeted expansion of the 1988 Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program that would encompass a broader range of sectors.

Link to book

Working Papers

Media Coverage: Chalkbeat

Media Coverage: Chalkbeat, The Colorado Sun

Works in Progress

"Do Increases in School Property Taxes Crowd Out Private Contributions to Public Schools?"

"The Impact of Research Universities on Local Economic Development: Evidence from the G.I. Bill" (with Shawn Kantor and Alexander Whalley)