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Visiting Scholar: Joshua Angrist

Friday, February 16
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
Hinckley Center Assembly Hall


Dr. Joshua Angrist is an Israeli–American economist and Ford Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received his B.A. in economics from Oberlin College in 1982 and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University in 1987 and 1989, respectively.
Dr. Angrist ranks among the world's top economists in labor economics, urban economics, and the economics of education, and is known for his use of quasi-experimental research designs (such as instrumental variables) to study the effects of public policies and changes in economic or social circumstances. Together with Guido Imbens, he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 2021 "for their methodological contributions to the analysis of causal relationships."
Dr. Angrist is also co-founder and co-director of the MIT's School Effectiveness & Inequality Initiative, which studies the relationship between human capital and income inequality in the U.S. In recent years he has additionally embarked on education entrepreneurship, through "Avela Education", bringing some of the most important findings from academic work on schools, matching, and the econometrics of causal inference to real-world school choice and accountability.
Please see this link for his extended biography.

Combined Student & Faculty Lecture: 16 February 2024

"Escaping the Elite Illusion"
Talented students compete fiercely for seats at Boston and New York exam schools. These schools are characterized by high levels of peer achievement and a demanding curriculum tailored to each district's highest achievers. While exam school students do very well in school, the question of whether an exam school education adds value relative to a regular public education remains open. We estimate the causal effect of exam school attendance using a regression-discontinuity design, reporting both parametric and non- parametric estimates. The outcomes studied here include scores on state standardized achievement tests, PSAT and SAT participation and scores, and AP scores. Our estimates show little effect of exam school offers on most students' achievement. We use two-stage least squares to convert reduced form estimates of the effects of exam school offers into estimates of peer and tracking effects, arguing that these appear to be unimportant in this context. Finally, we explore the external validity of RD estimates, arguing that as best we can tell, there is little effect of an exam school education on achievement even for the highest-ability marginal applicants and for applicants to the right of admissions cutoffs. On the other hand, a Boston exam school education seems to have a modest effect on high school English scores for minority applicants. A small group of 9th grade applicants also appears to do better on SAT Reasoning. These localized gains notwithstanding, the intense competition for exam school seats does not appear to be justified by improved learning for a broad set of students.