Sunday, December 1, 2019

Sustaining environments hypothesis is the idea that long-term success of early educational interventions depends on the quality of the subsequent learning environment; study finds no such relation

Bailey, Drew H., Jade M. Jenkins, and Daniela Alvarez-Vargas. (2019). Complementarities between Early Educational Intervention and Later Educational Quality? A Systematic Review of the Sustaining Environments Hypothesis. (EdWorkingPaper: 19-99). Annenberg Institute at Brown University, Sep 2019.

Abstract: The sustaining environments hypothesis refers to the popular idea, stemming from theories in developmental, cognitive, and educational psychology, that the long-term success of early educational interventions is contingent on the quality of the subsequent learning environment. Several studies have investigated whether specific kindergarten classroom and other elementary school factors account for patterns of persistence and fadeout of early educational interventions. These analyses focus on the statistical interaction between an early educational intervention – usually whether the child attended preschool – and several measures of the quality of the subsequent educational environment. The key prediction of the sustaining environments hypothesis is a positive interaction between these two variables. To quantify the strength of the evidence for such effects, we meta-analyze existing studies that have attempted to estimate interactions between preschool and later educational quality in the United States. We then attempt to establish the consistency of the direction and a plausible range of estimates of the interaction between preschool attendance and subsequent educational quality by using a specification curve analysis in a large, nationally representative dataset that has been used in several recent studies of the sustaining environments hypothesis. The meta-analysis yields small positive interaction estimates ranging from approximately .00 to .04, depending on the specification. The specification curve analyses yield interaction estimates of approximately 0. Results suggest that the current mix of methods used to test the sustaining environments hypothesis cannot reliably detect realistically sized effects. Our recommendations are to combine large sample sizes with strong causal identification strategies, and to study combinations of interventions that have a strong probability of showing large main effects.

Keywords: education, achievement, meta-analysis, persistence and fadeout, intervention

4) Heterogeneity across treatments, contexts, and children.
One possibility is that, although these interactions averaged out to approximately 0, some of them were reliably positive, consistent with complementarity between early educational intervention and later education quality, and others were reliably negative, consistent with substitutability. We find mixed evidence for this, with a statistically significant test for heterogeneity in the meta-analysis and more than 5% statistically significant estimates in the specification curve analysis, but an inferential specification curve consistent with a relatively homogenous effect of approximately 0. Importantly, this occurs despite our inclusion of a heterogeneous set of definitions of early childhood intervention and later educational quality in our analysis, methods that might reasonably be expected to increase the heterogeneity of estimates. Additionally, although the meta-analysis indicated a moderate amount of heterogeneity in interaction estimates, the prediction we thought most directly followed from the sustaining environments hypothesis – namely, that interactions would only be positive when the main effects of early and later quality were positive – was not supported. Still, perhaps the most compelling argument for heterogeneity is that it is real but not well observed in these data, because we did not measure the “right” later educational moderators of early educational intervention effects. We will discuss this possibility below.

Affirmative Action, Major Choice, and Long-Run Impacts: California after ending college AA admissions policy

Bleemer, Zachary, Affirmative Action, Major Choice, and Long-Run Impacts (2019). SSRN, Nov 20:

Abstract: Estimation of the impact of race-based affirmative action (AA) on the medium- and long-run outcomes of underrepresented minority (URM) university applicants has been frustrated by limited data availability. This study presents a highly-detailed novel database of University of California (UC) applications in the years before and after the end of its AA admissions policy, linked to national educational records and a California employment database. Using a difference-in-difference design to compare URM and non-URM freshman applicants' outcomes two years before and after UC's affirmative action policies ended in 1998, I identify substantial and persistent educational and labor market deterioration after 1998 among URM applicants: each of UC's 10,000-per-year URM freshman applicants' likelihood of earning a Bachelor's degree within six years declined by 1.3 percentage points, their likelihood of earning any graduate degree declined 1.4 p.p., and their likelihood of earning at least $100,000 annual between ages 30 and 37 declined by about 1 p.p. per year. These results suggest that affirmative action's end decreased the number of age 30-to-34 URM Californians earning over $100,000 by at least 2.5 percent. Turning to targeted students' major choice, I link the application records to five universities' detailed course transcript data and find no evidence –despite considerable statistical power– that more-selective university enrollment under AA lowered URM students' performance or persistence in core physical, biological, or mathematical science courses. These findings suggest that state prohibitions on university affirmative action policies have modestly exacerbated American socioeconomic inequities.

Keywords: Higher Education; Affirmative Action; University Selectivity; Major Choice
JEL Classification: I24, J24, J31, H75

Did Early Twintieth-Century Alcohol Prohibition Laws Reduce Mortality?

Did Early Twintieth-Century Alcohol Prohibition Affect Mortality? Marc T. Law  Mindy S. Marks. Economic Inquiry, November 28 2019.

Abstract: We investigate the contemporaneous mortality consequences of alcohol prohibition laws introduced in America between 1900 and 1920. We improve on existing studies by constructing a time‐varying measure of prohibition at the state level that corrects for the timing of prohibition enforcement and accounts for the presence of dry counties. Using summary indices that aggregate alcohol‐related mortality due to disease and poor decisions, we find that prohibition significantly reduced mortality rates. These findings are corroborated with an area‐level analysis that exploits data on deaths in urban areas that were wet prior to statewide or federal prohibition and nonurban areas that were partially dry. (JEL I18, N4, K2)

Moral Outrage Porn, vanity projects, competition to be outraged

Moral Outrage Porn. C. Thi Nguyen & Bekka Williams. Forthcoming in Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy. Nov 2019.

We offer an account of the generic use of the term “porn”, as seen in recent usages such as “food porn” and “real estate porn”. We offer a definition adapted from earlier accounts of sexual pornography. On our account, a representation is used as generic porn when it is engaged with primarily for the sake of a gratifying reaction, freed from the usual costs and consequences of engaging with the represented content. We demonstrate the usefulness of the concept of generic porn by using it to isolate a new type of such porn: moral outrage porn. Moral outrage porn is, as we understand it, representations of moral outrage, engaged with primarily for the sake of the resulting gratification, freed from the usual costs and consequences of engaging with morally outrageous content. Moral outrage porn is dangerous because it encourages the instrumentalization of one’s empirical and moral beliefs, manipulating their content for the sake of gratification. Finally, we suggest that when using porn is wrong, it is often wrong because it instrumentalizes what ought not to be instrumentalized.

This worry parallels, in some significant ways, Tosi and Warmke’s (2016) complaint against moral grandstanding.19 Moral grandstanding is morally problematic, they argue, in large part because grandstanders are treating moral discourse as a “vanity project”:
In using public moral discourse to promote an image of themselves to others, grandstanders turn their contributions to moral discourse into a vanity project. Consider the incongruity between, say, the moral gravity of a world-historic injustice, on the one hand, and a group of acquaintances competing for the position of being most morally offended by it, on the other. Such behavior, we think, is not the sort of thing we should expect from a virtuous person (215- 16).
Note, crucially, that the problem asserted by Tosi and Warmke in this instance isn’t that moral grandstanding has bad results.20 Instead, the problem is that using moral discourse for selfpromotion is problematically egotistical. Tosi and Warmke focus on moral problems associated with using moral outrage for interpersonal jockeying. That is the essence of the notion of moral grandstanding — the use of moral expression for social signaling. Similarly, it seems plausible that the use of moral outrage porn in many cases involves a failure to respect the fundamental role of moral expression. Notice that, where the problem with moral grandstanding is essentially interpersonal and social, the problem with moral outrage porn is personal and hedonistic.21 The problem of moral grandstanding is that we use morality for status; the problem of moral outrage porn is that we are using morality for pleasure. When one indulges in moral outrage porn, one uses what by one’s own lights is morally outrageous for one’s own enjoyment.22 It is, loosely speaking, to make morality about oneself, when it clearly is not. Furthermore, it is no accident, we think, that the features of moral outrage porn relevant to the “bad faith” problem mirror Michael Tanner’s (1976/77) account of the problems of sentimentality. In his discussion of Oscar Wilde and the sentimental, Tanner says, “the feelings which constitute [the sentimental] are in some important way unearned, being had on the cheap, come by too easily…” (1976/77: 128). The use of moral outrage porn, if one accepts our definition, involves an attempt to be gratified by a representation of the endresult of moral engagement without taking on the consequences or effort of actually engaging. This seems a paradigmatic case of getting a feeling on the cheap. What we’ve sketched thus far are a number of considerations that weigh in favor of a serious moral strike against the use of moral outrage porn. There are also a number of consequentialist considerations that we might adduce. Tanner (1976/77: 134) argues that the intrinsically sentimental tends toward passivity (139). Sentimental emotions, Tanner suggests, can themselves encourage inaction.
[I]t also seems to me that some of my feelings are of a kind that inhibit action, because they themselves are enjoyable to have, but if acted upon, one would cease to have them, and one doesn’t want to. Such a feeling does seem to me intrinsically sentimental… (Tanner 1976/77: 139).