Selection on Observed and Unobserved Variables: Assessing the Effectiveness of Catholic Schools

Posted: 13 Jan 2005

See all articles by Joseph G. Altonji

Joseph G. Altonji

Yale University - Economic Growth Center; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Yale University - Cowles Foundation

Todd E. Elder

Michigan State University

Christopher Taber

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); University of Wisconsin - Madison

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Abstract

In this paper, we measure the effect of Catholic high school attendance on educational attainment and test scores. Because we do not have a good instrumental variable for Catholic school attendance, we develop new estimation methods based on the idea that the amount of selection on the observed explanatory variables in a model provides a guide to the amount of selection on the unobservables. We also propose an informal way to assess selectivity bias based on measuring the ratio of selection on unobservables to selection on observables that would be required if one is to attribute the entire effect of Catholic school attendance to selection bias. We use our methods to estimate the effect of attending a Catholic high school on a variety of outcomes. Our main conclusion is that Catholic high schools substantially increase the probability of graduating from high school and, more tentatively, attending college. We find little evidence of an effect on test scores.

Suggested Citation

Altonji, Joseph G. and Elder, Todd E. and Taber, Christopher R., Selection on Observed and Unobserved Variables: Assessing the Effectiveness of Catholic Schools. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=648051

Joseph G. Altonji (Contact Author)

Yale University - Economic Growth Center ( email )

Box 208269
New Haven, CT 06520-8269
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Yale University - Cowles Foundation

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New Haven, CT 06520-8281
United States

Todd E. Elder

Michigan State University ( email )

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Department of Economics
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United States
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Christopher R. Taber

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

University of Wisconsin - Madison ( email )

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Madison, WI 53706-1481
United States

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