Job Market Paper

Do Wildfires Harm Student Learning?

Abstract: I evaluate the effect of wildfire smoke on primary and middle school students’ English Language Arts (ELA) and math achievement across the United States. To estimate students’ exposure to wildfires at the school district level, I merge satellite-based wildfire smoke plume boundaries and 1km-grid daily PM2.5 values with school district locations, and weight the exposure by census tract population. I find that recent drifting wildfire smoke plumes significantly lower ELA and math test scores. When I proxy the wildfire intensity by PM2.5, results suggest that severe wildfires generate lasting effects on young students in primary school. Effects are only transitory for students in middle school. Further analysis reveals that Black students in primary school and economically disadvantaged students are more negatively affected than others. Males are more affected by unhealthy air quality in elementary ELA and middle school math than female students. Overall, findings suggest that more environmental and educational policy responses are needed to protect students with the increase in wildfire occurrence and intensity.

*Presented at the Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP) Conference, 2022; the Southern Economic Association Conference (SEA), 2022.

Works in Progress

Does Career & Technical Education Move with the Labor Market? (Draft available upon request)

(with Celeste K. Carruthers)

Abstract: We focus on Tennessee public high schools to study whether positive and negative labor market signals in a given industry affect high school course enrollments and course offerings in aligned industries. We find that notices of area layoffs reduce aligned course-taking, but estimated effects are very small and short-lived. Likewise, job creation notices modestly increase concurrent aligned course-taking as well as course-offering, but effects dissipate the following year. These preliminary findings suggest that secondary schools and students may not be as responsive to changes in the labor market as post-secondary schools and students.

*Presented at the Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP) Conference, 2021; the Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management (APPAM) Conference, 2021.

Free College Opportunity for Low-income, High-achieving Students: Assessing Students’ Responses to the Flagship Scholarship in Tennessee

(with Celeste K. Carruthers)

Abstract: We examine the effect of the Flagship Scholarship program, which is implemented by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and eliminates many of the obstacles of application complexity, cost uncertainty, and information mismatch at the same time. We use difference-in-differences estimation models to assess if the free college promise from the Flagship scholarship results in higher ACT scores, a higher likelihood of college enrollment, or changes in the selectivity of colleges where students enroll.

Policy Reports

Wu, Ge, and Celeste K. Carruthers. Does Career & Technical Education Move with the Labor Market?

Interim report (2021):