Essays on the Economics of Education

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This dissertation explores several facets of the economics of education. The first chapter explores the impact of intradistrict public school choice on the relationship between house prices and elementary school test scores. Previous research has established a positive relationship between house prices and school quality in settings where students do not have opportunities for intradistrict public school choice. I examine a program of intradistrict school choice in Jefferson County, Kentucky. Using a boundary regression discontinuity approach, I estimate that the presence of school choice weakens the relationship between house prices and local school test scores. My estimates suggest that a five percent increase in a local school's test scores would lead to no more than two to three tenths of a percent increase in house prices. This response is concentrated in areas where houses are farther from the schools available in their choice set. This chapter also explores parents' preferences in a case where intradistrict school choice is available. I find that parents care about both their proximity to schools and the test scores of schools.

In chapter 2, I investigate the impact of high school music classes on student academic achievement. Other researchers have documented a positive correlation between participation in music and academic achievement. However, there is a strong possibility that this correlation is driven by selection into music. Using propensity score matching, I estimate the causal impact of high school music classes on several academic outcomes. The results indicate that taking at least one music class in high school leads to increases in enrollment at a postsecondary school, increases in enrollment at a four-year college, increases in high school test scores, and small increases in students' high school academic GPA. The largest effects are found for students who participate in high school band.