Working Papers

The Effects of Exposure to Community Gun-Violence on the High School Dropout Rates of California Public School Students

Abstract: I constructed a unique set of data from over 300 California law enforcement agencies, in conjunction with large-scale education microdata covering the high school outcomes of over 3.8 million California ninth-graders from the classes of 2003 to 2014 to examine the extent to which estimated effects of violence exposure, coupled with significant differences in violence exposure rates, contribute to population-level differences in educational attainment. I find that: (1) Gun-violence exposure rates are significantly related to mean dropout rates for Blacks and Hispanics, and are unrelated to mean dropout rates for Whites and Asians. (2) Gun-violence exposure effects on high school completion are not primarily mediated by learning losses (less than 25 percent of the effect), which suggests that gun-violence exposure related dropouts generally have the cognitive capability to excel beyond their realized levels of educational attainment. (3) Gun-violence exposure affects everyone. Blacks and Hispanics are most affected through elevated dropout rates. Exposure effects for Whites tend to manifest by way of higher intragroup variance in dropout rates. Both Whites and Asians are affected by lower levels of reading and math proficiency among high school graduates. (4) Estimates suggest that the Black-White (Hispanic-White) difference in gun-violence exposure levels is associated with 16 (19) percent of the Black-White (Hispanic-White) difference in California dropout rates over the last decade. Findings in this chapter provide clear evidence that negative effects of gun-violence have played a significant role in shaping state-level demographics.

Unequal Families, Unequal Effects: How Family Disruption is not Uniformly Disruptive to Children’s Educational Attainment  (with Jennie Brand, Xi Song, and Yu Xie)

Abstract:  A substantial literature suggests that family disruption leads to lower educational attainment among children. We focus on how the effects of parental divorce on children’s education vary across families with varying likelihoods of disruption. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and the National Longitudinal Survey’s Child-Mother file, with careful attention to the assumptions and methods needed to estimate total and mediating causal effects, we find a significant effect of parental divorce on educational attainment among children whose parents were unlikely to divorce, for whom divorce was a relative shock. We find no effect among children whose parents were likely to divorce, for whom divorce was one of many disadvantages and thus less economically and socially disruptive. The observed effect of divorce on children’s education is strongly mediated by post-divorce family income. Children’s psychosocial skills also explain a portion of the effect among children with a low propensity for divorce, while cognitive skills play no role in explaining the negative association between divorce and children’s education. Our results suggest that family disruption does not have a uniformly disruptive influence on children’s attainment.