​Work in Progress

“Does the girl next door affect your cognitive outcomes? ” with Sofoklis Goulas

Status: Draft in preparation. Paper presented at: 1) CAGE seminar, University of Warwick, 2) PhD meeting in Economics, University of Macedonia, July 2016 and 3) Conference in Economics and Econometrics, University of Athens (AUEB), Greece, Tinos, July 2016 

Peer effects are potentially important for optimally organising schools and neighbourhoods. In this paper we estimate how the gender of classmates and neighbours affect a student’s academic achievement. Given that students are assigned to schools based on proximity to school, we define as neighbours all same-cohort peer who attend any other school within a mile from one’s school. We employ two strategies. First we exploit within-school and -neighbourhood variation in the proportion of females across consecutive cohorts in the twelfth grade. Using data for the universe of students in Greece between 2004 and 2009 we find that a higher share of females improves females and males’ academic performance, affects various scholastic outcomes related to the university admission exams and affects the choice of university study for both genders.  Specifically, we find that females are more likely to enrol in mathematics and computer science departments in classrooms that are more females whereas both males and females students are more likely to enrol in science and engineering departments in neighbourhoods that have more females. Next, we exploit the random assignment of students to classes within a school in the eleventh grade. We control for potentially confounding unobserved characteristics of schools, classes and students that could be related to the proportion of females, and we exploit variation in the proportion of females across classes within the same school in a given year to obtain identification. Using unique hand-collected data, we find that a higher share of eleventh grade female classmates improves girls’ end-of-year performance in mathematics and increases their likelihood to enrol in mathematics university departments a year later.

"The impact of scholarships and bursaries on academic success in University and the Labor Market”  
Status: Results ready, New Draft  is coming soon

This paper examines the benefits to the University students of entry scholarships and bursaries and identifies the effects on the University graduation performance, completion time and the labor market. Students enrol in Universities based on the admission’s score comprised of high school national exams and national rank. I use unique data from the Hellenic Public Scholarship Department combined with student level performance data directly collected from University Departments. Each year the Top1 % of the University entering students in each Department gets an automatic merit award of around €1200. Although studying at the University is free, this award acts mainly as a motivational device. Using a regression discontinuity analysis, I find that scoring top in the entrance exams improves students’ academic performance throughout the system, increases the probability to get a bursary next year, increases the probability to get a Master’s scholarship and has a significant positive effect on the probability to move abroad in order to find a job. Using data from a Tax Authority, I find that one out of three students who get access to this flow of financial resources leave the country, enhancing the brain-drain effect. Effects are stronger for students coming from low-income neighborhoods.

Keywords: regression discontinuity, merit aid, college enrollment

“Does the Gender Composition Matter in Justice? Evidence from the Supreme Judicial Court”

​“Gender Peer Effects: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Korea” with Do Won Kwok

"The Effect of the Exposure to Refugees on Crime Activity. Evidence from the Greek Islands" 

“Are boys right when they are complaining? Gender Discrimination in Higher Education” with Do Won Kwok

“Marathon or Sprint? The effect of exam fatigue on academic performance” with Sofoklis Goulas

1)  "Knowing who you are: The effect of feedback on short and long term outcomes" 

with Sofoklis Goulas {Online Appendix 1}  UNDER REVIEW

Unicredit & Universities Young Economist Prize for best paper presented at the 2016 Belgrade Young Economist Conference

Recipient of the Best Paper Recognition in Social Sciences presented at the Asia Pacific Institute of Advanced Research, Melbourne

We study the effect of disclosing relative performance information (feedback) on students' performance in high-school, on subsequent university enrollment, and on expected subsequent earnings. We exploit a large-scale natural experiment in which students in some cohorts receive information about their relative performance within their schools and across the nation. Using unique primary data, we find an asymmetric response to feedback: high-achieving students improve their final-year performance by 0.15 of a standard deviation, whereas the final-year performance of low-achieving students drops by 0.3 of a standard deviation. The results are more pronounced for females, indicating greater sensitivity to feedback. We also document the long-term effects of feedback: high-achieving students reduce their repetition rate for the national exams; they enroll into university departments that are more prestigious by 0.15 of a standard deviation and their expected annual earnings increase by 0.17 of a standard deviation. By contrast, the results for low-achieving students are negative. We provide suggestive evidence that feedback encourages more students from low-income neighborhoods to enroll in university and to study in higher-quality programs, which may, in the long run, reduce income inequality.

Keywords: feedback, relative performance, university admission, rank, gender differences, income inequality 

2) “Persistency in Teachers' Grading Biases and Effect on Longer Term Outcomes: University Admission Exams and Choice of Field of Study" with Victor Lavy
previously "Why are there Fewer Women Engineers? The Role of Teachers."

Recent research focus on what shapes gender differences in academic achievements and in university field of study. In this paper we focus on how teachers’ gender role attitudes and stereotypes influence the gender gap by affecting the environment at school. We explore the extent to which teachers’ gender bias in high school influences students’ academic performance in high-stake exams that determine admission to universities and on students’ choice of university field of study. We use data from large number of high schools in Greece where the performance in these high-stake exams determine university admission. We measure teachers’ bias as the difference between a student’s school exam score in 11th and in 12th grade (scored ‘non-blindly’ by the students’ teachers) and her national exam score (taken at the end of 11th and 12th grade and scored blindly). We then define a teachers’ bias measure at the class level by the difference between boy’s and girl’s average gap between the school score and the national score. Positive values indicate that a teacher is biased in favor of boys in a particular subject. We link teachers over time and are therefore able to get a persistent teacher bias measure based on multiple classes, and the effect is estimated for later students’ performance. The panel data on teachers relieves concerns that our measure of gender bias may just pick up random (small sample) variation in the unobserved "quality" or "non-cognitive" skills of the boys vs. girls in a particular single class or any other class specific dynamics. Our results may be summarized with three broad conclusions. First, the same teachers who are biased for one class are biased in the same way for other classes in the same year and in classes in earlier or later academic years. The very high correlations of within teachers’ biases in different classes reveal high persistency in teachers’ stereotypical behavior. Second, teachers’ biases in core and elective subjects (classics, social science, science, exact science) have positive effect on boys’ and negative effects on girls’ performance on end of high school university admission exams. Female teachers are more pro-girls on average but the effect of female and male teachers’ biases on national exams are not statistically different. Third, teachers’ biases in specific courses lower the likelihood that students enroll in a related field of study at the university. This average effect masks large heterogeneity by gender, being larger and statistically significant for girls and not different from zero for boys.

Keywords: teacher bias, gender discrimination, stereotypes

3) "Which degrees do students prefer during recessions? ”  UNDER REVIEW
with Sofoklis Goulas
Featuring in: The Conversation
and  Epoch Times (Singapore), Scrollin (India) , EUROPP (LSE), The Kathimerini (in Greek) and The Ethnos ( in Greek)

This paper examines the changes in higher education demand that took place in Greece over the period 2005-2011, with a focus on the role played by the increase in unemployment rate on the demand for different fields of university study. We use administrative data on the number of applications submitted to each undergraduate program in Greece, combined with a degree specific job insecurity index and time series on youth (18-25 year old) unemployment. Results indicate that the steep increase in unemployment rate that started in 2009 was associated with an increase in the number of college applicants. The effect is heterogeneous across fields, with an increase in the demand for degrees in Psychology as well as for Naval, Police and Military Academies, and a decrease in the demand for degrees in Business and Management. We find that job insecurity turns applicants away from degrees that are associated with poor employment prospects. We also find that the business cycle affects degrees' admission thresholds.

Keywords: demand for education, college major, unemployment, job insecurity, admission thresholds

4) "Swine Flu, Class Attendance, and School Performance. Should we force students to go to class? "UNDER REVIEW    with Sofoklis Goulas

In this paper, we investigate the effects of the choice to skip class on scholastic outcomes. We exploit exogenous variation from a natural experiment in Greece that relaxed the time budget constraint of high school students to identify the effect of absences on scholastic outcomes across the ability distribution. In the school year 2009-2010 high school students were allowed to skip 30% more hours of class in comparison to previous or following years with no penalty. This treatment was provided to protect students from the Swine Flu. Using data on swine flu cases we provide evidence that the treatment affected absences but not school performance directly. We use an instrumental variable approach to identify the intention-to-treat effect of the policy as well as well-defined local average treatment effect of absences on grades. We find that the relaxed class attendance policy caused an increase in absences of roughly 10 hours. In addition, we find a positive effect of absences upon grades.

5) “May I be excused? Identification of returns to absences and class peer effects” with Sofoklis Goulas

In this paper, we investigate (1) returns to absences and (2) peer effects. We exploit exogenous variation from a natural experiment that changed the school absences allowance for the better students in order to identify the effect of school attendance on educational outcomes. The natural experiment took place in Greece in 2007 and provided higher performing students with 50 more hours of excused absences from school. We start off by using a Regression Discontinuity approach in order to measure the change in total absences and exam score due to the reform around the cutoff. Next, we employ a combination of differences-in-differences and instrumental variables techniques in order to identify returns to absences and peer effects. Our estimates show significant positive peer effects in Greek Language but negative peer effects in Mathematics. Furthermore, our estimates yield significant negative returns to absences of a magnitude of 0.01 standard deviations per hour of absence in Greek Language, Mathematics and the overall GPA.

Keywords:  human capital, returns to education, attendance, peer effects, natural experiment 

Rigissa Megalokonomou

​Lecturer in Economics

Working Papers