Prof. Doug Downey

Portrait Foto Prof. Doug Downey (Martina Sander-Blanck)
Martina Sander-Blanck


downey.32 [at]
Professor of Sociology
Ohio State University
Former Visiting Researcher of the Research Department


Doug Downey is trying to understand schools' role in shaping inequality.  Several previous studies have found that inequality in children's reading and math skills grows faster when school is out versus in, suggesting that schools' overall impact is compensatory. This provocative pattern suggests that we may be underestimating the quality of schools serving disadvantaged children and overestimating the extent to which differences in school quality are responsible for inequality. But the evidence for the compensatory position has been mostly limited to socioeconomic gaps in cognitive skills and children’s body mass index, leaving open an important question: Do schools operate in a more pernicious manner, exacerbating inequality, for other outcomes? While at the WZB, Downey is extending this kind of work to consider whether schools affect children's social and behavioral skills in a similar manner.  Social and behavioral skills are distinct from reading and math skills and yet scholars are increasingly aware of how important they are for both academic and labor market success.