Why don't schools and teachers seem to matter? : assessing the impact of unobservables on educational productivity

by Dan D. Goldhaber, Dominic J. Brewer

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Using data drawn from the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988, which allows students to be linked to particular teachers and classes, the authors estimate the impact of observable and unobservable schooling characteristics on student outcomes. A variety of models show some schooling resources (in particular, teacher qualifications) to be significant in influencing tenth-grade mathematics test scores. Unobservable school, teacher, and class characteristics are important in explaining student achievement but do not appear to be correlated with observable variables in the authors sample. Thus, the authors' results suggest that the omission of unobservables does not cause biased estimates in standard educational production functions.

Originally published in: Journal of Human Resources, v. 32, no. 3, pp. 505-523.

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