Research in Progress
Supporting Pathways out of Poverty: Randomized Evaluation of Mobility Mentoring (with Larry Katz and Liz Engle)
Current public support services tend to address a particular symptom of poverty rather than central causes. This paper explores whether holistic, individualized mentoring combined with monetary incentives can help low-income public housing residents achieve economic self-sufficiency. The intervention called Mobility Mentoring includes an individualized coaching plan, weekly meetings to set and assess goals, and temporary financial assistance to incentivize goals or help participants overcome financial obstacles. We evaluate the intervention through a randomized experiment. With the assistance of the Boston Housing Authority (BHA), we recruited public housing and voucher recipients who are able to work and randomly assign half to treatment. Treatment group participants are able to receive three years of Mobility Mentoring Services, while the control group receives the services usually available to them in the community. Drawing on administrative tax data, our primary outcomes explore the impact of the program on employment, earnings, and household income. We will also examine impacts on financial health, housing stability, public benefit receipt, and survey measures of health and well-being. We plan to follow study participants for ten years from random assignment in administrative data sources, allowing us to assess whether the intervention generates economic self-sufficiency in the long-run.
Academics and Athletics: A Randomized Trial of Multi-Faceted Mentorship (with Noam Angrist)
This study evaluates a novel mentorship program combining athletics and academics to close achievement gaps among urban public high school students in the U.S., a setting where racial achievement gaps have persisted for over 20 years. We estimate the causal effect on GPAs – a consequential outcome capturing both academic and non-academic performance in school – by leveraging randomized lotteries run to determine program admission. Results from a pilot show large effects on standardized GPAs of 0.50 standard deviation (p-value= 0.016). This translates to students moving from a “C+” to “B” average. The majority of students are Black and Hispanic, and a single semester of attending the program closes 45-70% of the racial achievement gap. The program ranks among the most cost-effective education interventions in the literature, since it reduces cost by leveraging college volunteer mentors and boosts impact by coupling both cognitive and non-cognitive skill acquisition. We plan to collect additional administrative records to expand this analysis to a larger sample and broader array of outcomes, including high school attendance and disciplinary actions, on-time grade progression and graduation, and college going and completion.
Mentoring Across Lines of Difference: Evidence from A Comprehensive Mentorship Program for Students At Risk of Dropping Out of High School (with Bill Evans and Sarah Kroeger)
The Effect of Low-level Arrests on the Early-life Trajectory of Urban Youth: Evidence from Tax and Arrest Records (with Benny Goldman)