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Parker Receives NSF Grant to Study Effects of Social Programs on Education

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New PhDs

A collaboration between the University of Maryland and the University of Pennsylvania has awarded $412,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the effects of supply-side and demand-side policies on educational achievement in Mexico.

As part of the grant, Susan Parker, professor and CISSM senior fellow at UMD’s School of Public Policy, Petra Todd, Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term, professor of economics at UPenn and principal investigator of the project, will follow more than 20 million sixth grade students in Mexico over time, studying different variables that affect their learning and grade progression.

There are many factors that can affect the educational outcome of a student: long travel distances to a school, high school fees, large class sizes, a lack of teacher training, or competing demands on a child’s time such as work obligations. Parker and Todd look to predict the effects of various education policies, taking into account these factors alongside a compiled dataset consisting of school enrollment, grade repetition, achievement scores, and student, teacher and school characteristics.

“Underachievement is a particular problem in Mexico. Mexico ranked last among the 34 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) mathematics examination,” said Parker. “Our research will show what types of policies are more or less effective for improving education levels in Mexico.”

Parker and Todd have multiple publications planned in both academic and policy journals for their research findings, as well as presentations at several seminars and conferences in both the US and Mexico. They also plan to issue working papers through a paper series.

Parker previously served as a professor of economics at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE) in Mexico City, and is currently a research affiliate at the Population Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania and at Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA). She holds a PhD and MA in economics from Yale University and a BA in economics and mathematics from Franklin and Marshall College.

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