Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Living at home versus commuting

The title of this piece from the Atlantic CityLab is a bit misleading. Really, this is a short meditation by someone who has taught in a charter school serving a disadvantaged population on the question of whether or not to encourage his students to bust their budgets to live on campus when they go to college.

The treatment effect of living on campus versus commuting is something we do not have very good evidence on, and which, perhaps as a result, is often neglected in discussions of the effect of college quality (or its interaction with ability, college mismatch) has on academic and labor market outcomes. The probability of living on campus (or away from home, a separate but related treatment) surely increases with college quality. If it represents an important component of the effect of college quality, this would call for quite different policy changes than if it does not matter, and college quality is all about class size or faculty salaries.

I suspect that living on campus actually has quite heterogeneous effects on students, with the distribution of impacts including negative as well as positive values. Being able to predict which students would benefit and which would not would of course be the holy grail here, but it is a long way off indeed.

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