Michela Maria Tincani


"Teacher Quality in Public and Private Schools Under a Voucher System: The Case of Chile", Journal of Labor Economics , 2016, vol. 34, no. 2
(with J. Behrman, P. Todd and K. Wolpin)

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Chile is unusual in having long-term experience with nationwide school vouchers and a large private school sector. A key criticism of school voucher systems is that they make it easier for private schools to attract better teachers to the detriment of public schools. This paper uses longitudinal household and teacher survey data from Chile to develop and estimate a discrete choice dynamic programming (DCDP) model of teacher and non-teacher labor supply decisions and to explore how wage policies affect the composition of the teacher labor force in both public and private schools. In the model, individuals first decide whether to get a teaching degree and then choose annually from among five work/home sector alternatives. Empirical results show support for the concern that private voucher schools attract better teachers than public schools. However, the existence of the private voucher sector also draws higher productivity individuals into the teaching profession.

Research papers:

"Heterogeneous Peer Effects and Rank Concerns: Theory and Evidence"

This paper was featured in the HCEO Research Spotlight series for being the most viewed Working Paper on the HCEO website in the first half of 2017, link to the article.

HCEO Working Paper 2017-006

CESifo WP 6331

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Using a theoretical model where students care about achievement rank, I study effort choices in the classroom and show that rank concerns generate peer effects. The model's key empirical prediction is that the effect on own achievement of increasing the dispersion in peer cost of effort is heterogeneous, depending on a student's own cost of effort. To test this, I construct a longitudinal multi-cohort dataset of students, with data on the geographic propagation of building damages from the Chilean 2010 earthquake. I find that higher dispersion in home damages among one's classmates led, on average, to lower own Mathematics and Spanish test scores. To be able to test the theory, I develop a novel nonlinear difference-in-differences model that estimates effect heterogeneity and that relates observed damages to unobserved cost of effort. I find that some students at the tails of the predicted cost of effort distribution benefit from higher dispersion in peer cost of effort, as predicted by the theoretical model. This finding suggests that observed peer effects on test scores are, at least partly, governed by rank concerns.

"Teacher Labor Markets, School Vouchers and Student Cognitive Achievement: Evidence from Chile"

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This paper uses administrative and survey data from Chile and a structural model to evaluate teacher policies in a market-based school system. The model accommodates equilibrium effects on parental sorting across school sectors (public or private), on the self-selection of individuals into teaching and across school sectors, and on teacher wages in private schools. Results indicate that the equilibrium effects are empirically relevant. The estimated model is used to simulate a reform that is planned to be implemented in Chile in 2023. Tying public school teacher wages to teacher skills and introducing minimum competency requirements for teaching is predicted to increase student test scores by 0.30 standard deviations and decrease the achievement gap between the poorest and richest 25 percent of students by a third. These impacts are ten times as large as the impact of a flat wage increase in public schools that induces the same average increase in public school wages. The key driver of policy outcomes is an improvement in the pool of teachers, amplified by equilibrium effects in the market for teachers.

"On the Nature of Social Interactions in Education: An Explanation for Recent Experimental Evidence"

(New version coming soon)

This paper presents a theoretical model of social interactions in education that can help us understand the (unexpected) outcomes of the United States Air Force Academy experiment in Carrell, Sacerdote, and West (2013), and the outcomes of a peer regrouping experiment at the Univeristy of Amsterdam (Booij, Leuven, Oosterbeek, 2016). A Monte Carlo experiment shows that inclusion of the variance of peer ability as a regressor in a reduced-form peer effect regression ensures good out-of-sample predictions when the data are generated from the model. In the model, students care about their achievement both in absolute terms and relative to the achievement of their peers. Comparative statics results show how changes in peer ability composition affect students' incentive to exert effort, providing an explanation for the striking experimental results. This finding indicates that the understudied channel of academic competition may affect the outcome of peer regrouping policies.

Work in progress:

"Self-confidence and the Gender Gap in Career Trajectories" (with Sarah Cattan)

"Equal Opportunities in Access to Higher Education: Evidence from the Randomization of a National Policy" (with Fabian Kosse and Ranjita Rajan)

Articles in Edited Volumes (not peer reviewed):

"Voting", with A. Penta, J. Pogach, A. Sandroni and D. Selman, in Encyclopedia of Complexity and System Science, 2009, Springer