DP4052 Immigrating to Opportunity: Estimating the Effect of School Quality Using a Natural Experiment on Ethiopians in Israel

Author(s): Eric D Gould, Victor Lavy, M. Daniele Paserman
Publication Date: September 2003
Keyword(s): dropout rates, immigrant absorption, natural experiment, peer effects, school quality
JEL(s): I20, J24
Programme Areas: Labour Economics, Public Economics
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=4052

In May 1991, 15,000 Ethiopian Jews were brought to Israel in an overnight airlift and sorted in a haphazard and essentially random fashion to absorption centres across the country. This quasi-random assignment produced a natural experiment whereby the initial schooling environment of Ethiopian children can be considered exogenous to their family background and parental decisions. We examine the extent to which the initial elementary school environment affected the high school outcomes of Ethiopian children, using administrative panel data on the educational career of each child in Israel through much of the 1990s. The results show that the early school environment has an important effect on high school dropout and repetition rates and on end-of-high-school matriculation exams. The results are robust to controlling for observable characteristics of the community, suggesting that characteristics of the elementary school itself, such as the quality of instruction and peer effects, are important for high school success.