Is Identification with School the Key Component in the ‘Black Box’ of Education Outcomes? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment

Publication Date:
Jan 2009
Project Programs:
Behavioral Economics

In this paper, we follow up the important class size reduction randomized experiment in Tennessee in the mid 1980s (Project STAR) to attempt to further understand the long-lasting influences of early education interventions. While STAR led to large test score benefits during the intervention, these benefits quickly faded at its conclusion. However, research has recently shown that the STAR experiment led to long term benefits, including increases in college entrance exams participation (ACT/SAT), especially for minority students. We collect new follow-up data on high school participation in extracurricular activities to examine whether (1) STAR increased participation in high school activities and (2) whether this increase in participation in high school is the explanation behind the long term benefits of the intervention.We find suggestive evidence that STAR did indeed increase some aspects of high school participation, including scholastic honors and participation in sports, especially for minority students. In contrast, we find little evidence that this increase in participation is the mechanism that has conferred higher rates of college-going to the STAR students.


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