Immigrant Integration in the United States: The Role of Adult English Language Training (w/Blake Heller) Forthcoming at American Economic Journal: Economic Policy.

While current debates center on whether and how to admit immigrants to the United States, little attention has been paid to interventions designed to help immigrants integrate after they arrive. Public adult education programs are the primary policy lever for building the language skills of the over 23 million adults with limited English proficiency in the United States. We leverage the enrollment lottery of a publicly-funded adult English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program in Massachusetts to estimate the effects of English language training on voting behavior and employer-reported earnings. Attending ESOL classes more than doubles rates of voter registration and increases annual earnings by $2,400 (56%). We estimate that increased tax revenue from earnings gains fully pay for program costs over time, generating a 6% annual return for taxpayers. Our results demonstrate the social value of post-migration investments in the human capital of adult immigrants.

The Effect of Charter School Openings on Traditional Public Schools in North Carolina and Massachusetts. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, May 2022.

The rapid expansion of charter schools in the U.S. has fueled concerns about their impact on the traditional public schools. I estimate the effect of charter school openings on traditional public schools in Massachusetts and North Carolina by comparing schools near actual charter sites to those near proposed charter sites that were never ultimately occupied. I find that charter openings reduce public school enrollment by around 5 percent. I find no impact of charter openings on student achievement in math or ELA, and my 95 percent confidence interval rules out effects larger than 0.05 standard deviations in either direction. I find no effect of charter openings on attendance and suspensions.

Working Papers and Work in Progress

Politics and Children’s Books: Evidence from School Library Collections [Working Paper]

Most public schools have a library on site, but little is known about the quality or content of school library programs. I use web-scraping techniques to collect original data on hundreds of titles in over 6,600 school libraries to identify patterns in library resources and content. Three primary findings emerge. First, gaps exist in library resources and collection quality, particularly between schools in low- and high-income areas. Second, although books with “controversial content” are widely available, the prevalence of these titles is related to local politics, state laws, and social environments. Libraries in conservative areas are less likely to have books that deal with LGBTQ+ issues, race/racism, or abortion and more likely to have discontinued Dr. Seuss and Christian fiction titles. Third, book challenges in the 2021-22 school year have had “chilling effects” on the acquisition of new LGBTQ+ content.

Civic Education, Civic Engagement, and K-12 Schools [In progress]

I am working on a series of project that consider how public schools contribute to civic engagement.  For these projects, I am linking together statewide K-12 education records to birth records and national voting records. My research will look at school- and teacher contributions to civic engagement, relationships between parental and child voting, and whether civic education classes and coursework relate to long-term voting behavior.

English Language Skills and Citizenship: Evidence from an Age-at-Arrival Instrument. [Draft available upon request]

By the 2020 election, immigrants will make up 1 in 10 eligible voters in the United States. I identify the causal effect of English language skills on the probability an immigrant becomes a citizen using an age-at-arrival/host country language instrumental variable strategy. I find large positive effects of English skills on naturalization: a one point increase in English ability on a 0-3 scale increases the probability an immigrant becomes a citizen by 14.8 percentage points. I find suggestive evidence that this effect is mediated by the effect of language skills on educational attainment. My results are robust to a variety of alternative specifications designed to address concerns about undocumented immigrants and derivative citizenship.

Who benefits from the GED? New regression discontinuity evidence from Massachusetts. (w/Blake Heller)

A mature body of research has examined the labor market returns to passing the GED, typically finding modest (or negligible) benefits for the individual. In this study, we use a regression discontinuity research design to estimate the impact of obtaining the GED on postsecondary outcomes for two self-selected groups of test-takers in Massachusetts: high school dropouts who do and do not enroll in publicly funded adult basic education (ABE) classes. In contrast with previous work, we find that earning a GED credential substantially increases enrollment and persistence in postsecondary education for ABE students who marginally pass the GED, but find no such effects for dropouts who do not participate in ABE. Specifically, our IV estimates indicate that earning a GED increases the likelihood that ABE participants ever enroll in college by 33.4-55.8 percentage points and increases enrollment for four or more quarters by 25.4-33.7 percentage points, depending on the specification. We hypothesize that although ABE students are negatively selected in terms of academic skills, they are positively selected on dimensions of non-cognitive skills and motivation relative to non-ABE test-takers. Our findings highlight a policy-relevant population of GED test-takers for whom earning a GED may be particularly beneficial and furthers our understanding of who does and does not benefit from this credential.


Charter School Authorizing in California. Technical Report. Getting Down to Facts II.  (w/Martin R. West). 2018. Policy Analysis for California Education, PACE.

Access to Postsecondary Schooling and the GED: New Regression Discontinuity Evidence from Massachusetts. (w/Blake Heller). 2017. Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Policy Brief.