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Investigating Determinants of Educational Attainment and Achievement in Mexico

NSF award funds collaboration between scholars at the University of Maryland and the University of Pennsylvania to study the effects of supply-side and demand-side policies

MPRC Acting Associate Director Susan W. Parker will work with Petra Todd, Professor of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania, on a 4-year project that will employ new longitudinal data to assess the impact of a number of social policies in Mexico. The project will follow more than 20 million sixth grade students in Mexico over time, studying variables that affect their learning and grade progression.

Many factors can affect the educational outcome of a student: long travel distances to a school, high school fees, large class sizes, a lack of teacher training, or competing demands on a child’s time such as work obligations. Parker and Todd look to predict the effects of various education policies, taking into account these factors alongside a compiled dataset consisting of school enrollment, grade repetition, achievement scores, and student, teacher and school characteristics.

“Underachievement is a particular problem in Mexico. Mexico ranked last among the 34 Organizations for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) mathematics examination,” said Parker. “Our research will show what types of policies are more or less effective for improving education levels in Mexico.”

As PI for the Maryland side of the project, Dr. Parker will focus on all aspects related to obtaining, merging, constructing and updating databases including:

  • identification of Minister of Education administrative datasets including enrollment, grades, repetition and test scores;
  • matching all students enrolled at any time to their administrative school records;
  • identification and matching of school characteristics and geographic, economic and social data to student level data;
  • documentation and elaboration of methodological documents on data construction and usage; and
  • updating of administrative data.

The main data construction will take place during the first three years of the project. During the fourth and final year data work will consist of any updating which is necessary, in addition to writing manuals explaining the process of data construction and potentially allowing others to use data and have access to adequate documentation.

Parker and Todd have multiple publications planned in both academic and policy journals for their research findings, as well as presentations at several seminars and conferences in both the US and Mexico. They also plan to issue working papers through a paper series. Parker will take the lead in producing policy briefs in Spanish and will prepare articles about the principal policy implications for publication in Mexican academic journals such as Latin American Economic Review, Estudios Economicos and Trimestre Economico.

Using New Longitudinal Linked Data to Investigate the Determinants of Educational Attainment and Achievement in Mexico, NSF, $412,000.