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IES Grant

Title: The Impact of Integration: An Analysis of the METCO Voluntary Desegregation Busing Program
Center: NCER Year: 2020
Principal Investigator: Angrist, Joshua Awardee: National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Program: Improving Education Systems      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (07/01/2020 - 06/30/2023) Award Amount: $700,000
Type: Efficacy Award Number: R305A200060

Co-Principal Investigator: Setren, Elizabeth

Purpose: This project analyzes the impact of integration on Black, Hispanic, Asian, and White students' outcomes using the applicant records of the 50-year-old Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) voluntary desegregation busing program. Findings from the study will increase understanding of the impact of reduced racial isolation and of access to high-performing suburban schools for urban students of color.

Project Activities: Researchers will leverage and expand an extant dataset of applicants to the METCO program in order to evaluate the impact of access to the program and high-performing suburban schools on a wide range of education and life outcomes. The research team will also complete cost and cost-effectiveness analyses.

Products: Researchers will produce a set of evidence describing the impact of a Massachusetts desegregation program on student outcomes. The team will also produce a cost effectiveness analysis, peer-reviewed publications, and a publicly accessible, non-confidential dataset with documentation about how to access confidential data and information about the programs used to analyze the data.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research examines a Massachusetts desegregation program.

Sample: The research team currently has records of over 32,000 METCO applicants from 1990 to the present. They are expanding the sample to include applicants back to the start of the program in 1966.

Intervention: Researchers are examining a Massachusetts desegregation program called METCO that busses Boston and Springfield minority students to 42 suburban school districts. METCO is the country's largest desegregation bussing program. It has enrolled urban minority students in suburban schools since 1966.

Research Design and Methods: To study the impact of integration, researchers will study urban students of color who applied to METCO for the chance to enroll in a suburban school. Over 3,300 students across kindergarten and grade 12 participate in METCO each year. The team will expand their dataset to include records back to 1966 and will be able to analyze longer term outcomes. This expanded dataset will allow the project team to study how the programs' effects changed over time. Additionally, researchers will investigate the impact of integration on the predominantly White, higher SES students of the 42 school suburban districts that accept METCO students.

Control Condition: Students in the control condition are urban students who are not selected for METCO. Those students mostly attend urban public schools with a high fraction of minority students. Suburban students in the control condition have lower exposure to diverse peers.

Key Measures: Outcomes from state administrative education records include math and English test scores, attendance, suspensions, grade progression and retention, school climate measures (including measures of social and academic integration and inclusion, attitudes about diversity, school bullying, and social and emotional competencies), passing state exam to remain in college-preparation courses in high school, high school graduation, state scholarship qualification, and SAT and AP test taking and scores. The project team will also analyze college enrollment, persistence, and graduation outcomes, employment and earnings, civic engagement, criminal justice outcomes, marriage and fertility, and housing outcomes.

Data Analytic Strategy: To estimate the causal impact of METCO for urban students, the researchers will use waitlist (Boston) and lottery (Springfield) instruments in two-stage least squares analysis. For suburban districts, they will use difference-in-differences analysis, exploiting shocks to students' exposure to diverse peers.

Cost Analysis: Publicly available data enables a detailed cost analysis of the METCO program at the state, district, and school level at the aggregate and per-pupil level. Data include state budget and expenditure for administration of the program, transportation costs, and subsidies for districts that accept METCO students. In addition, detailed school and district revenue and expenditure data enable estimation of the per-pupil revenue and spending of schools and districts that receive METCO students and lost revenue for Boston and Springfield Public Schools. The team will compare the costs of the program to key outcomes (including student test scores, college graduation, and earnings) to conduct the cost-effectiveness analysis for the state, the individual suburban school districts, and overall.