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Education, Work, and Institutions

What Motivates State Policymakers’ Decisions to Fund Public Higher Education During Economic Downturns?

Denisa Gándara, Meredith S. Billings, Paul G. Rubin, and Lindsey Hammond, February 2024

State legislative bodies cut funding for higher education during economic downturns. In this brief, PRC faculty scholar Denisa Gándara and colleagues explore how and why policymakers made the funding decisions they did when they were faced with the COVID-19 economic downturn. The authors explored these funding questions in-depth in California and Texas, states that are similar in the size and diversity of their student populations but different in their political ideologies. They found that public higher education faced larger budget cuts relative to other sectors because policymakers had greater discretion over higher education funding compared to other state budget areas and because they believed that all higher education institutions had access to other sources of revenue while other sectors did not. They also found that policymakers favored funding student financial aid over funding institutions and that funding decisions were made in relation to how it affected their constituents as well as whether they perceived those constituents as having influence over their reelection. The authors emphasize the need to educate policymakers that cuts to state tuition support disproportionately impacts colleges and universities that serve historically marginalized students because these institutions, with few other revenue sources, must raise tuition to make up for lost state revenue.

Motivating High School Teachers to Support Students’ Growth Mindsets Reduces Inequality in Academic Outcomes

Cameron A. Hecht, Christopher J. Bryan, and David S. Yeager, August 2023

The United States is one of the most economically unequal developed countries; education may be one of the best ways to achieve social mobility. However, young people from lower-income backgrounds face many obstacles to academic success. Inequalities between socioeconomically disadvantaged and advantaged students can be made worse when teachers believe that intellectual abilities are fixed and cannot be improved, particularly for disadvantaged students. One way to lessen the negative effects of this thinking would be to stimulate teachers to create a growth mindset classroom culture, which is guided by the belief that students’ intellectual abilities are not fixed but can be improved with effort and learning. Using a values-alignment framework, the authors developed a 45-minute self-administered online intervention to motivate high school teachers to adopt new communication practices in the classroom that support and reinforce students’ growth mindsets. They found that the intervention had a positive impact on teachers and on students’ pass rates and grades. They also found that the intervention reduced inequality between students. If implemented widely, the intervention has the potential to positively impact hundreds of thousands of socioeconomically disadvantaged students.

Brazilian Parents’ Involvement In Education Supports Their Children’s Dedication To Schoolwork and Math and Reading Achievement

Andrew E. Koepp, Elizabeth T. Gershoff, and Letícia J. Marteleto, February 2023

Decades of research from the United States and other high-income countries has demonstrated that parents’ involvement in their children’s education positively impacts student academic achievement. However, it is not clear if these findings generalize to a middle income country such as Brazil, where average education is lower and resources to invest in children are more limited. On the other hand, Brazilian parents might encourage children’s schooling because Brazilians benefit from some of the highest returns to education in the world. Using data from several million fifth-grade and ninth-grade students enrolled in Brazilian public schools, PRC Graduate Student Trainee Andrew Koepp, PRC Director Liz Gershoff, and PRC Faculty Scholar Letícia Marteleto found that parent involvement was indirectly linked to student achievement through students’ completion of homework and that even involved parents with few years of formal schooling supported their children’s academic achievement. They argue that interventions and outreach programs should therefore target all parents to improve children's long-term academic and career success. Brief also available in Portuguese.

Designing a Mindset Intervention to Help Underrepresented Students Thrive in Introductory College Science Courses

Cameron A. Hecht, Anita G. Latham, Ruth E. Buskirk, Debra R. Hansen, and David S. Yeager, November 2022

Demand for professionals with skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields continues to grow in the United States. But many undergraduate STEM majors, especially underrepresented minority and first-generation college students, drop out or change majors before graduating. Students’ mindsets, or their assumptions, beliefs, or perspectives that shape how they interpret and respond to their academic environment, are potential barriers to success. Mindset interventions have shown promise for improving undergraduate students’ academic outcomes and promoting diversity in STEM. However, mindset interventions need to be customized to maximize their impact. PRC postdoctoral fellow Cameron Hecht and PRC faculty scholar David Yeager, along with UT Austin biology instructor collaborators, designed a protocol to develop customized peer-modeled mindset interventions for specific college courses, in which current students hear from former students about the changes in thinking that helped them to be successful. Using the protocol, the authors designed an intervention for introductory biology and found that it improved students’ experiences and outcomes in the course, particularly among students who have been historically underrepresented in the STEM fields. These findings highlight the positive impact of students hearing the right story at the right time from a trusted source.

Online Mindset Training Protects Adolescents from Unhealthy Responses to Stress

David S. Yeager, Christopher J. Bryan, James J. Gross, Jared S. Murray, Danielle Krettek Cobb, Pedro H. F. Santos, Hannah Gravelding, Meghann Johnson, and Jeremy P. Jamieson, October 2022

Adolescents today are experiencing record-high levels of stress-related anxiety and symptoms of depression. Conventional thinking portrays stress as mostly a bad thing to be avoided. But this “stress avoidance” mentality can disadvantage teenagers, as it may lead many to disengage from potentially beneficial stressors such as demanding academic coursework. PRC faculty scholars David Yeager, Christopher Bryan, and colleagues, combined and tested two existing, scientifically validated mindsets – the growth mindset and stress-can-be-enhancing mindset – into a single, coherent treatment to teach adolescents how to appraise and optimize stress. They found that teaching adolescents about the two mindsets together had synergistic effects and that together, the synergistic mindsets training helped adolescents to engage with challenges rather than avoid them, and to harness the body’s natural resources to help them succeed when the demands of challenging pursuits felt the most intense. This research demonstrates a potentially powerful, low-cost and easy-to-use tool for addressing adolescents’ stress.

School Administrators’ Support for Educator Training on Students’ Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Is An Effective Way to Reduce Victimization for LGBT Students and Improve School Climates for All Students

Salvatore Ioverno, Meg D. Bishop, Stephen T. Russell, May 2022

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth report higher rates of victimization and hostile school climate than their non-LGBT peers. Professional development training for school personnel on issues related to sexual and gender identity, known as SOGI training, is one strategy to improve the school experiences and school climate for LGBT youth, and potentially all youth. However, little is known about the impact of SOGI training on LGBT and non-LGBT youth’s experiences at school. Former PRC postdoctoral fellow Salvatore Ioverno, current PRC trainee Meg Bishop, and PRC faculty scholar Stephen Russell report on a recent study in which they find that support for SOGI training by school administration is an effective way to reduce victimization disparities for LGBT students and improve school climates for all students. They also find that the impact of SOGI training should be sustained over time to reap the associated benefits.

White, Asian, Latinx, and Black Families Express Race-Based School Preferences

Chantal A. Hailey, March 2022

Most students in the United States attend racially segregated schools. To explain school racial segregation, researchers often highlight structural factors such as school assignment based on racially segregated neighborhoods. And while these structures contribute to segregation, schools in cities without residential school assignments are also segregated. Understanding families’ school preferences, particularly if they are motivated by race, is necessary to evaluate the impact on racial segregation of expanded school-choice policies. Using data from an experimental study in which eighth-grade students and their parents were asked about their willingness to attend hypothetical high schools with randomized majority White, majority Latinx, majority Black, and racially diverse compositions, PRC faculty scholar Chantal Hailey finds that schools’ racial composition affects families’ school preferences. In order to decrease racial segregation in schools, Dr. Hailey advocates for policymakers to dismantle educational practices that perpetuate negative stereotypes and marginalize student populations.

How Have Changes in the Labor Market Contributed to Increases in Suicide and Drug Poisoning Deaths among Men in the United States?

Jamie M. Carroll, Alicia Duncombe, Anna S. Mueller, and Chandra Muller, February 2022

Over the last two decades, deaths from suicide and drug poisoning have risen rapidly for American men without a college degree. Changes in the U.S. labor market likely play a central role in these mortality patterns. This changing labor market – particularly the loss of good-paying blue-collar jobs – can feed into feelings of hopelessness and despair which in turn increase vulnerability to suicide and drug poisoning deaths. Many adolescents growing up in the 1970s expected to hold blue-collar jobs that would support middle-class lifestyles but found that these jobs had largely disappeared when they reached adulthood. Using data from a large, nationally‐representative sample of students who were in high school in 1980, PRC researcher Jamie Carroll, PRC faculty scholar Chandra Muller, and colleagues, find that men who expected to work in occupations that later declined in labor market share and economic value have increased risks of suicide and drug poisoning deaths in adulthood. They advocate for educational training in flexible skills and adaptability as important tools for suicide and drug abuse prevention.

How Do Teachers’ and Parents’ Expectations Come Together to Influence Adolescents’ Educational Success?

Aprile D. Benner, Celeste C. Fernandez, Yang Hou, and Chelsea Smith Gonzalez, December 2021

The U.S. educational system has long struggled with racial/ethnic and socioeconomic achievement gaps among its students. Students of color and those from lower-income backgrounds often have poorer academic attainment compared to White students and those from higher-income families. Understanding the processes that could reduce disparities in academic achievement are critical to improving educational practice. Teachers’ and parents’ expectations for the educational futures of youth strongly influence how well the youth do academically. Using data from a large, nationally‐representative sample of students, PRC faculty scholar Aprile Benner, PRC graduate student trainee Celeste Fernandez, and colleagues, find that high teacher expectations are critical for youth academic achievement and can mitigate the negative effects of low parent expectations. They argue that improving educational expectations that teachers hold for all students has the potential to greatly assist youth who are often marginalized in educational settings.

Across Rich Nations, Disadvantaged Children Do Better When Work-Family Balance Is a Policy Priority

Matthew A. Andersson, Michael A. Garcia, and Jennifer Glass, January 2021

Across wealthy nations, health disparities between children in rich and poor families have been well-documented. Work-family conflict is linked to declines in parental health and well-being, which in turn can deteriorate well-being throughout the family. While policy mandates that support reconciling conflicts between the demands of work and those of family, such as paid time off, cannot eliminate all the financial difficulties of economic disadvantage, they can quite possibly mitigate the impact of that disadvantage. State subsidization of childcare, in contrast, may lower family economic strain in the short-term, but do not impact parental working conditions or hours. Using data with young adolescents from 20 rich nations, Matthew A. Andersson, from Baylor University, together with PRC trainee Michael A. Garcia and PRC faculty research associate Jennifer Glass find that disparities in children’s health between disadvantaged and advantaged families are lessened significantly through work-family reconciliation policies while cash transfer policies are not associated with reducing disparities in children’s health. Generous work-family reconciliation policies “level the playing field” among working parents and reduce the negative impact of economic disadvantage on children’s health.

Women, Minorities, and Non-Union Workers Continue to Dominate Low-Wage Markets, and Experience Job Insecurity and Limited Upward Mobility

Ken-Hou Lin, Carolina Aragão, J. Adam Cobb, November 2020

Work plays a central role in American life and forms the core of most adults’ identity. Yet, since the 1970s, employment conditions for a large segment of the population has deteriorated and low-wage work has expanded significantly. As part of an on-going research project exploring the relationship between work, job quality and upward mobility, PRC faculty research associate Ken-Hou Lin, graduate research trainee Carolina Aragão, and Adam Cobb from the McCombs School of Business provide an overview of the low-wage labor market in the United States. They find that gender, race/ethnicity, and immigration status characteristics typically associated with broader disadvantages are also associated with low-wage work, job insecurity, and lack of upward mobility.

Changing U.S. Students’ Mindsets about Learning Improves Academic Achievement

David S. Yeager, Paul Hanselman, Robert Crosnoe, and Chandra Muller, September 2019

In the United States, many students’ grades drop in the transition between 8th and 9th grades and often never recover. One promising intervention to help students successfully navigate the transition to high school involves encouraging students to see their intellectual abilities as something that can grow (like a muscle), rather than as something fixed (like eye color). In this research brief, PRC faculty research associates David Yeager, Robert Crosnoe and Chandra Muller, along with colleagues in the Mindset Scholars Network, report on the first longitudinal study to evaluate the effects of a short growth mindset curriculum in a nationally-representative sample of U.S. public high schools. They demonstrate that 9th grade students who took the growth mindset curriculum earned higher GPAs and took more challenging courses, particularly in schools that are more supportive of a growth mindset philosophy.

Proposition 8 Increased Homophobic Bullying in Schools without a Gay-Straight Alliance Club

Mark L. Hatzenbuehler, Yishan Shen, Elizabeth A. Vandewater, and Stephen T. Russell, August 2019

This brief explores whether Proposition 8 (Prop 8), a November 2008 California voter referendum that restricted marriage to heterosexuals, was associated with an increase in homophobic bullying, or bullying related to actual or perceived sexual orientation, among California youth. Analyzing data from nearly 5 million California youth, PRC faculty research associate Stephen T. Russell and his colleagues find that homophobic bullying in California schools increased in the period leading up to the Prop 8 vote and declined in subsequent school years. No other forms of bullying (based on race/ethnicity, gender, or religion) showed a similar pattern. In addition, students at schools with gay-straight alliances did not report an increase in homophobic bullying, demonstrating a protective effect of GSAs.

White and Black Boys Fall Further Behind White Girls during the Transition to High School

April Sutton, Amy G. Langenkamp, Chandra Muller, and Kathryn S. Schiller, December 2018

Educational transitions, such as the one from middle school to high school, are difficult for all students but may be especially difficult for students from marginalized groups. During these critical periods in schooling, academic status can be reshaped and inequality between racial/ethnic groups and gender can deepen. Former PRC trainees April Sutton and Amy Langenkamp, along with PRC faculty research associate Chandra Muller and Kathryn Schiller (SUNY Albany), use nationally representative data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) to investigate how the transition to high school affects the GPAs of young white, black, and Latino men and women. They show that white and black male students, especially higher-achieving black students, suffer the greatest academic losses at the high school starting gate. Notably, these young men do not recover lost academic ground the following year. Given the role that high school GPA plays in gender and racial/ethnic disparities in educational attainment, this research has significant implications for inequalities within and beyond high school.

To Improve Community College Transfer in Texas, Students Need Better Information

Lauren Schudde, Huriya Jabbar, and Andrea Chevalier, December 2018

Community college students in Texas lack essential information about state transfer policies. With better resources, students could take courses more efficiently at community college and position themselves to complete their bachelor’s degree after transfer. To improve the state’s investment in higher education, policymakers and other stakeholders should clarify existing transfer policies and increase the quality of student-facing information about transfer. Improving transfer in Texas will advance equity and reduce students’ costs and the time it takes them to complete a four-year degree.

Twenty Years of Evidence Shows Continuing Racial Disparities in Academic Achievement

Katherine W. Paschall, Elizabeth T. Gershoff, and Megan Kuhfeld, July 2018

Non-Hispanic white children typically outperform their non-Hispanic black and Hispanic peers; high-income students also outperform low-income students in school. This brief, from PRC research associates Katherine Paschall and Megan Kuhfeld and faculty research associate Elizabeth Gershoff, investigates variations in academic performance within race and ethnic groups according to students’ family income. They find that, from 1986 to 2005, non-poor white students consistently outperformed their non-poor black and Hispanic peers and poor white students outperformed poor black and Hispanic students, illustrating that poverty has a more detrimental effect on the academic achievement of children of color compared to their white peers.

Why Are the Courses You Take in High School Important for Your Health at Midlife?

Jamie M. Carroll, Chandra Muller, Eric Grodsky, and John Robert Warren, July 2018

Using data from the High School and Beyond cohort of high school sophomores, PRC trainee Jamie M. Carroll, PRC faculty research associate Chandra Muller, and colleagues show that taking advanced courses in high school appears to improve health 30 years later. To improve our population’s health, policymakers could encourage more access to advanced coursework in high school as well as pedagogical strategies that empower independent thinking.

Who Goes to Jail for Child Support Debt?

Elizabeth Cozzolino, May 2018

This brief, by PRC trainee Elizabeth Cozzolino, uses data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to describe who goes to jail for nonpayment of child support and who among child support debtors are more likely to go to jail. She finds that 14% of fathers with child support debt go to jail; fathers who owe over $10,000 in debt and who have children by more than one mother are more likely to be sent to jail for nonpayment of child support.

New Measures of Teacher Turnover Can Reveal Underlying Chronic Staffing Problems in Schools

Jennifer Jellison Holme, Huriya Jabbar, Emily Germain, and John Dinning, March 2018

Teacher quality is one of the most important measures that predicts students’ educational and professional outcomes. But student success can be undermined by teacher turnover. This brief, by PRC faculty research associate Huriya Jabbar and colleagues, describes a typology of teacher turnover measures, including both measures currently in use as well as new measures developed by the authors. These measures illuminate different ways in which staff instability can negatively affect schools.

Is Dropping out of High School More Likely after Stressful Life Events?

Veronique Dupéré, Eric Dion, Tama Leventhal, Isabelle Archambault, Robert Crosnoe, and MichelJanosz, March 2018

High school dropout is typically viewed as the result of long-held vulnerabilities such as learning problems. This research brief, by PRC visiting scholars Véronique Dupéré and Eric Dion and PRC faculty research associate Robert Crosnoe and colleagues, shows that recent stressful life events can lead to a student dropping out.

The Emergence of Big Data Policing

Sarah Brayne, August 2017

The past decade has seen both the proliferation of surveillance in everyday life and the rise of “big data.” Through extensive qualitative research focusing on the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), PRC faculty research associate Sarah Brayne explores whether and how adopting big data analytics transforms police surveillance practices. This brief demonstrates that, in some cases, the adoption of big data analytics is associated with mere amplifications in prior practices, but in others, it is associated with fundamental transformations in surveillance activities.

Race Gaps in School Trust: Where They Come from and How to Resolve Them

David S. Yeager, Valerie Purdie-Vaughns, Sophia Yang Hooper, and Geoffrey L. Cohen, June 2017

Trust in American institutions varies widely among adults from different racial-ethnic backgrounds. This brief, from PRC faculty research associate David Yeager and colleagues, demonstrates that unjust treatment causes minority adolescents to lose trust in school, but a respectful "wise feedback" intervention can repair distrust.

Do Men and Women Both Enjoy a Wage Premium for Working in Finance?

Ken-Hou Lin and Megan Tobias Neely, April 2017

Over the last three decades, compensation in financial sector jobs has grown dramatically. However, do men and women who work in finance earn a wage premium? That is, do they earn more than their counterparts working in nonfinance jobs?  And do wage premiums vary by gender and parental status?  The authors, PRC faculty research associate Ken-Hou Lin and sociology PhD candidate Megan Tobias Neely, find that women earn a greater wage premium than men in low-wage financial jobs but that almost all of the increase in compensation in high finance has been captured by men, particularly fathers.

Addressing Homophobic Bullying in Schools: Punitive Versus Supportive Strategies

Jack Day, November 2016

This brief, based on PRC faculty research associate Stephen Russell's and postdoctoral fellow Jack Day and colleague's article in Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity entitled, "Supportive, Not Punitive, Practices Reduce Homophobic Bullying and Improve School Connectedness," highlights the best practices preventing homophobic bullying in schools, an important issue as U.S. states consider how to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (the replacement for the No Child Left Behind Act). The brief shows that schools with supportive practices, such as counseling services and a case-by-case approach to discipline, have better outcomes than schools with punitive, “zero tolerance” practices. 

How Do Potential New Employers Evaluate Workers in Part-Time Jobs, "Temp" Jobs, or Jobs Beneath Their Skill Level?

David Pedulla, April 2016

This brief, based on PRC faculty research associate David Pedulla's article "Penalized or Protected? Gender and the Consequence of Nonstandard and Mismatched Employment Histories” recently published in the American Sociological Review, examines the consequences of having a history of part-time work, “temp” agency employment, or a job beneath one’s skill level when applying for a new position. 

How Can Improving Data Collection and Reporting Advance the Civil Rights of LGBT Students?

Stephen Russell, March 2016

This brief, based on the article “Documenting Disparities for LGBT Students: Expanding the Collection and Reporting of Data on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” published in March in Discipline Disparities: A Research-to-Practice Collaborative, focuses on the importance of collecting data on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. PRC faculty research associate Dr. Stephen Russell is a co-author of this article and editor of the journal.