Current Projects

Handbook of Field Experiments 2016



Racial and ethnic inequality persists in countries across the globe. The most likely culprit is the disparity in skills among different demographics within a country. In this handbook chapter, we analyze the substantial literature on randomized field experiments that study the production of human capital in developed countries. What does the literature say about the effects of various interventions? What do these findings suggest about ways to combat the racial and ethnic achievement gap?

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Management Matters Most



From the Apollo 20 school turnaround project, we know that by applying the practices of achievement-increasing charter schools to low-performing traditional public schools, we can dramatically reduce or eliminate the racial achievement gap. If we can improve the management practices of school leaders using high-leverage but low-cost strategies, will student performance in these schools improve?

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In the Apollo 20 Schools in Houston ISD and the Denver Summit Schools, there was a significant positive impact on student achievement that could be attributed to the provision of high-dosage math tutoring for students in specific grades. Based on these results, we ask whether these results can be replicated – or even amplified – in reading by providing a cohort of students with daily small-group tutoring over the course of three years.


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Principal Incentives



This experiment aims to measure the effectiveness of offering principals financial incentives to implement specific school management practices and to compare that to the effectiveness of offering principals financial incentives based on student outcomes. We hypothesize that for those principals who, like the students in the schools they lead, do not necessarily know the education production function, providing incentives for research-based inputs will translate to increases in student achievement. For principals who do know the production function, incentivizing certain inputs can act as a focusing device. On the other hand, if principals already know best how to most effectively improve student performance in their schools, then the flexibility offered by output incentives should lead to more significant gains in student achievement. This experiment has the potential to revolutionize the principal pay structure in a way that increases the effectiveness of these leaders and improves educational outcomes for students.

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College Knowledge



College education is widely accepted to be a necessity for success in today’s economy, particularly with respect to socioeconomic mobility. Alarmingly, it is minorities and students from poorer backgrounds that have the lowest college enrollment and graduation rates. Can improving the information students have on colleges improve the matching process between students and colleges? In turn, will this have any impact on their performance, graduation rates, and ultimately, their chances of upward mobilization?

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In the wake of recent events, there has been a growing and impassioned debate on the role of race in police use of force. Critics allege that police act with racial bias, an accusation that has in turn spurned often lethal violence against the police themselves. With a database of highly granular data that includes encounter characteristics from a diverse set of cities across the country, we ask what is the extent, if any, of racial bias in both lethal and non-lethal police use of force?

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