Do small schools improve performance in large, urban districts? Causal evidence from New York City

Amy Ellen Schwartz, Leanna Stiefel, Matthew Wiswall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We evaluate the effectiveness of small high school reform in the country's largest school district, New York City. Using a rich administrative dataset for multiple cohorts of students and distance between student residence and school to instrument for endogenous school selection, we find substantial heterogeneity in school effects: newly created small schools have positive effects on graduation and some other education outcomes while older small schools do not. Importantly, we show that ignoring this source of treatment effect heterogeneity by assuming a common small school effect yields a misleading zero effect of small school attendance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-40
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Urban Economics
StatePublished - Sep 1 2013



  • Education reform
  • Heterogeneous treatment
  • Instrumental variables
  • Small schools

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Urban Studies

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