Facets of School Systems and their Effects on Students' Skills


My research covers the economics of education, with a special focus on secondary school systems and their role in shaping students’ educational achievement, labour market outcomes and inequality therein. My research is of applied and empirical nature: I apply econometric techniques to survey and administrative data, aiming to uncover causal relations between variables, with the ultimate goal of informing public policy. In the first chapter of my dissertation, I estimate the effects of ability tracking, as practiced in Germany, on student achievement. The early separation of students into different schools is usually motivated by efficiency. Yet, I find that German states that combined the lower two school tracks and delayed tracking saw substantial increases in their students’ mathematics and reading achievement and that these improvements are driven by increased outcomes for low-achieving students. Motivated by this finding, the second chapter of my dissertation takes a closer look at two non-traditional and non-tracked school forms in Germany: comprehensive (“Gesamtschulen”) and vocational upper secondary schools (“Berufliche Gymnasien”). Jointly with Camilla Borgna (Collegio Carlo Alberto), I ask whether increased supply of such schools improves attainment rates. Finally, the third chapter of my dissertation turns to the English school system, which contrasts with the German context in that secondary schooling is comprehensive for much longer. In England, students are taught the same national curriculum up until the age of 16, after which they choose between an academic upper secondary track, vocational education or entering the labour market directly. Jointly with Gugliemo Ventura (London School of Economics), I study the labour market consequences of this choice using a novel instrumental variables strategy in combination with comprehensive administrative data.