My Research

Here you can find links to my published articles.

Journal Articles

It’s the Journey, Not the Destination: The Effect of School Travel Mode on Student Achievement

(with Phuong Nguyen-Hoang)

Journal of Urbanism, Forthcoming.

According to data from the National Household Travel Survey, 49.3 percent of American children in Kindergarten through sixth grade either walked or biked to school in 1969. By 2017, only 11 percent of elementary children still walked or biked to school. In this study, we examine the effect of school transport mode on a child’s academic achievement using data from a nationally representative dataset of American children. We rely on instrumental variables regression to isolate the effect of mode on achievement. Our results suggest children who are dropped off from private vehicles, and to a lesser extent, walk to school, have higher test scores than children who ride the bus.

Testing the Effectiveness of "Managing for Results": Evidence from an Education Policy Innovation in New York City

(with Weijie Wang)

Journal of Public Administration Research & Theory, 29(1): 84-100, 2019.

“Managing for results” (MFR) is a performance management system that decentralizes authority to managers in exchange for greater accountability in performance. Although MFR makes much theoretical sense, the evidence of the effectiveness of MFR has not been as conclusive. In this study, we use panel data methods to examine the impact of a particular MFR reform in New York City, the Empowerment Zone (EZ), which focused on providing city public school principals greater autonomy to improve school outcomes. In addition, we use objective measures of both performance management and organizational performance. Our differences-in-differences estimates suggest that the EZ had a significant and positive effect on school performance as measured by proficiency rates in standardized mathematics exams, overall performance, and Regents diploma graduation rates, though the effects were not immediately apparent.

The Impact of U.S. News College Rankings on the Compensation of College and University Presidents

(with Phillip Gigliotti and Phuong Nguyen-Hoang)

Research in Higher Education, 60(1): 1-17, 2018.

This is the first study in the United States to examine the effect of prenatal maternal passive smoking on student learning outcomes. We use a national sample of children in combination with ordinary least squares regression and matching methods to examine this effect. We find evidence that prenatal maternal exposure to secondhand smoke leads to lower academic performance in language/literacy and mathematics in the later years of elementary school, particularly for mothers who did not actively smoke while pregnant. Our results provide persuasive empirical evidence in support of public policies that address prenatal maternal exposure to secondhand smoking.


From Mother to Child: The Effects of Prenatal Maternal Passive Smoking on Academic Outcomes in the United States

(with Phuong Nguyen-Hoang)

Journal of Public Health Policy, 39(2): 231-244, 2018.

This is the first study in the United States to examine the effect of prenatal maternal passive smoking on student learning outcomes. We use a national sample of children in combination with ordinary least squares regression and matching methods to examine this effect. We find evidence that prenatal maternal exposure to secondhand smoke leads to lower academic performance in language/literacy and mathematics in the later years of elementary school, particularly for mothers who did not actively smoke while pregnant. Our results provide persuasive empirical evidence in support of public policies that address prenatal maternal exposure to secondhand smoking.

Endogenous Peer Effects: Fact or Fiction

(with Phuong Nguyen-Hoang)

Journal of Educational Research, 109(1): 37-49, 2016.

The authors examine endogenous peer effects, which occur when a student's behavior or outcome is a function of the behavior or outcome of his or her peer group. Endogenous peer effects have important implications for educational policies such as busing, school choice and tracking. In this study, the authors quantitatively review the literature on endogenous peer effects through the use of meta-analytic methods. They find a significant and positive endogenous peer effect. It appears to be a genuine empirical effect but is dependent on the measure of educational outcomes, the peer group, publication status, and publication year.

Athletics, Athletic Leadership, and Academic Achievement

Education and Urban Society, 47(3): 361-387, 2015.

This study examines the relationship between athletics, athletic leadership, and academic achievement. This is likely to be a tricky issue as athletes and athletic leaders are not likely to be a random group of students. To address this issue I control for school fixed effects and instrument the endogenous variables with height. I find that athletes perform better than nonathletes in every subject area tested by the High School and Beyond survey and that this effect appear to differ by sex and race. Based on the literature, these results are likely to be especially true for urban youths. In addition, there are large benefits from leadership on these athletic teams.


Religion, Entrepreneurship, Income and Employment

(with Bruce Kingma)

International Journal of Social Sciences and Management, 1(1): 3-9, 2014.

Abstract: Some religions embrace entrepreneurship while others disagreed with the entrepreneurial spirit as being inconsistent with spirituality.  This study compares the entrepreneurial propensity and family income across religious denominations in the United States.  Information from the GSS database on self-employed and a matched sample of those employed by others is used to compare the propensity of entrepreneurship and family income by religion.​


Dollars for Lives: The Effect of Highway Capital Investments on Traffic Fatalities

(with Phuong Nguyen-Hoang)

Journal of Safety Research51, 109-115, 2014.

Abstract: Introduction: This study examines the effect of highway capital investments on highway fatalities. Methods: We used state-level data from the 48 contiguous states in the United States from 1968 through 2010 to estimate the effects on highway fatalities of capital expenditures and highway capital stock. We estimated these effects by controlling for a set of control variables together with state and year dummy variables and state-specific linear time trends. Results: We found that capital expenditures and capital stock had significant and negative effects on highway fatalities. Conclusion: States faced with declines in gas tax revenues have already cut back drastically on spending on roads including on maintenance and capital outlay. If this trend continues, it may undermine traffic safety. Practical application: While states and local governments are currently fiscally strained, it is important for them to continue investments in roadways to enhance traffic safety and, more significantly, to save lives.


Gifted Education: Robin Hood or the Sheriff of Nottingham

Education and Urban Society46(7), 798-825, 2014.

This article looks at the issue of gifted and talented education from the perspective of public policy. It asserts that the underachievement of gifted children is a national concern, as these children may someday benefit society in ways that are disproportionate to their share of the population. Perhaps more importantly, it concludes that gifted education need not be inequitable. In fact, in the current state of the affairs of the United States, I find tremendous variation in the resources districts receive from the state that go toward gifted education. The state is particularly important as it has the power to reduce inequalities between districts that are the result of wealth and other factors. Rather than exacerbating inequality, a larger distribution of the gifted and talented resources serves to ensure gifted children in both poor and rich districts have an opportunity to maximize their potential.


No Base Left Behind: The Impact of Military Base Closures on Educational Expenditures and Outcomes

(with Phuong Nguyen-Hoang & Alexander Bogin)

Public Finance Review42(4), 439-465, 2014.

This study examines the effects of military base closures on educational expenditures and student outcomes with a national panel data set of school districts between 1990 and 2002. We adopt difference-in-differences estimation in combination with propensity score matching and instrumental variables techniques to estimate these effects. We find that per-pupil spending increases by 25.2 percent in the first year, where it remains. We also find a substantial decrease in graduation rates, but an improving trend occurs in the years after the closure.


Can Health Insurance Reduce School Absenteeism?

(with Brad Gunton, Dylan Kalbacher, Jed Seltzer, and Hannah Wesolowski)

Education and Urban Society, 43(6): 696-721, 2011.

Abstract: Enacted in 1997, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) represented the largest expansion of U.S. public health care coverage since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid 32 years earlier. Even though the reauthorization of the program is currently up in the air, there is a considerable lack of thorough and well-designed evaluations of the program. In this study, we use school attendance as measure of the program’s impact. Utilizing state-level data and the use of fixed-effects regression techniques, we conclude that SCHIP has had a positive and significant effect on state average daily attendance rates, as measured by both SCHIP participation and eligibility rates. The results support the renewal and expansion of the program.​


What is Paratransit Worth?

(With Phuong Nguyen-Hoang)

Transportation Research: Part A44(10): 841-853, 2010.

Abstract: Paratransit is a flexible demand-responsive form of public transportation intended for transporting mobility impaired individuals. This is the first study that estimates both demand and cost functions for publicly provided paratransit in the United States and the first to conduct a benefit-cost analysis for this mode. We find that the benefits of paratransit far exceed its associated costs. The results suggest that paratransit riders have few transportation alternatives available to them. We also find that the level of service matters in the demand for paratransit.

The Effects of Fiscal Decentralization on the Size of Government: A Meta-Analysis

Public Budgeting & Finance 29(4): 1-23, 2009.

Abstract: This study examines the effects of decentralization on the size and scope of government. I use meta-regression analysis in this article to elucidate the impact of differences in study design on study findings. The results indicate that the study’s unit of analysis and choice of decentralization measure impact estimates of the effect of decentralization on government size. In particular, studies utilizing the local unit of analysis and federalism measure of decentralization are more likely to find that government shrinks as decentralization increases while studies utilizing the fragmentation measure appear more likely to find the opposite result.


Are School Uniforms a Good Fit?: Results from the ECLS-K and the NELS
Educational Policy 23: 847-874, 2008.

Abstract: One of the most common proposals put forth for reform of the American system of education is the implementation of school uniforms. Proponents argue that uniforms can make schools safer and also improve school attendance and increase student achievement. Opponents contend that uniforms have not been proven to work and may be an infringement on the freedom of speech of young people. Within an econometric framework, this paper examines the effect of school uniforms on student achievement. It tackles methodological challenges through the use of a value-added functional form and the use of multiple datasets. The results do not suggest any significant association between school uniform policies and achievement. While the results do not definitely support or reject either side of the uniform argument, they do strongly intimate that uniforms are not the solution to all of American education's ills.


The Inter-University Case Program Challenging Orthodoxy, Training Public Servants, Creating Knowledge

Journal of Public Affairs Education XIII(3/4): 549-66, 2008.

Abstract: The list of individuals who participated in the Inter-University Case Program (ICP) reads like a who's who list of public administration titans. In one form or another, scholar-practitioners like Dwight Waldo, Paul Appleby, Harold Stein, and Frederick C. Mosher played a part in the success of the program. This article examines the ICP with an epistemological eye. The era of the ICP was a period when scholars thought that the complexity of government prevented the development of general administrative principles and also prevented the use of conventional scientific methods to generate knowledge in the field. They believed instead that the strength of the ICP case studies was in their detail. Instead of presenting an idealized world of public organizations, the cases left the blemishes intact and presented a more realistic view of government: a government that was heavily political and, at times, even irrational. The goal of the cases was to teach decision-making skills, though generalization and theory development were important but subordinate objectives. Generalization of knowledge from the case studies was a difficult, but not impossible, task. The development of general principles was not possible, but, without disregarding context, the case studies allowed scholars to observe general tendencies at work in public organizations. Today, as public administration has once again found its theories to be challenged by a changing world, the case study remains an important tool for linking theory in the sphere of academia and practice in the real world of administration.


Congestion Pricing: The Answer to America's Traffic Woes?​

The Wagner Review XII: 23-30, 2006.

Abstract: Congestion results in losses in productivity, added delivery time, extra costs for consumers, as well as damage to the environment. The most obvious solution is to build more roads, but the prevailing thought among experts is that adding supply is not an effective long-term solution. Another method of reducing congestion that has been proposed is congestion pricing, where motorists are charged different prices based on demand. A literature review supports congestion pricing's effectiveness, efficiency, and equity. Perhaps most importantly, a number of case studies suggest that congestion pricing is politically feasible.