June 1, 2018

Dropping Knowledge

Several new educational studies were released in the last two weeks. Here are a few takeaways from three studies.

Heat and learning loss

A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds a concerning relationship between heat and learning loss. Led by Harvard University economist Joshua Goodman, the researchers analyzed PSAT data and found:

  • Hotter school days in the year prior to taking the test reduce learning, causing students to perform worse on the tests.
  • Without air conditioning, each 1 degree F increase in school year temperature reduces the amount learned that year by 1 percent.
  • The impact of heat on learning is 3 times as large for black and Hispanic students than for white students.

The good news is that air conditioning almost completely offsets these effects, suggesting that investing in air conditioning infrastructure will increase learning for students, especially black and Hispanic students.

Gaps in summer experiences by socioeconomic status

The National Center for Education Statistics released a brief examining student experiences in the summer after kindergarten. The report finds large disparities in summer experiences between students from different socioeconomic statuses (SES), which may contribute to widening achievement gaps. Specifically:

  • 76 percent of all children played outside every day and there were no significant gaps by SES status
  • 38 percent of nonpoor children attended a summer day camp compared to 7 percent of poor children
  • 63 percent of nonpoor children visited an art gallery, museum, or historical site compared to 32 percent of poor children
  • 33 percent of nonpoor children went to a play or concert compared to 15 percent of poor children

Income inequality and parental investments in children

A new report from the American Sociological Review examines the impact of inequality on parental investments in education. The researchers find that in states with higher income inequality, there are wider class gaps in parental financial investments in children. They postulate that higher income inequality leads higher-income parents to pour more money into opportunities for their children as a way of passing on their advantage in a “winner-take-all economy.”

inequality and parental investments

For Your Consideration

Last week, Pew Research Center released a 90-page report titled, What Unites and Divides Urban, Suburban, and Rural CommunitiesWhile lengthy, a large portion of the report contains charts and graphics that sum up the main findings, making it easily skimmable. Here are few interesting ones:


  • Walmart Chooses Three Colleges Where Its Employees Can Study For $1 a Day

    EdSurge | 05/31/2018

  • The Hidden Costs of Losing Your City's Newspaper

    CityLab | 05/30/2018

  • Colleges Are No Match for American Poverty

    The Atlantic | 05/30/2018

  • Coverage gains among higher-income people suggest the ACA’s individual mandate had big effects on coverage

    Brookings Institute | 05/31/2018

  • Too broke to own a home? These startups will fund your American Dream

    Fast Company | 05/31/2018

  • No More Sweet Tooth? Scientists Switch Off Pleasure from Food in Brains of Mice

    Zuckerman Institute | 05/30/2018