Working Papers

Immigrant Integration in the United States: The Role of Adult English Language Training (w/Blake Heller) [Job Market Paper]

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 {Revise and resubmit requested}

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.

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.