Do Students Benefit from Attending Better Schools? Evidence from Rule-based Student Assignments in Trinidad and Tobago


  •  I am grateful for feedback received from Ron Ehrenberg, Roland Fryer, Kevin Hallock, Caroline Hoxby, Bob Hutchens, Clement Jackson, Lawrence Katz, Jordan Matsudaira, Jonah Rockoff and Henry Schneider. I am also grateful for useful comments received from participants of the Labor Economics workshop at Cornell University. I am deeply grateful to Marcia Riley and I would like to thank Yvonne Lewis, Rosaline Mendez and Simone Rawlins of the Trinidad and Tobago Department of Education Research and Evaluation for allowing me to access their data, their assistance and generosity. All errors are my own. Previously circulated under the working title ‘Ability-grouping and Academic Inequality: Evidence From Rule-based Student Assignments’.


In Trinidad and Tobago students are assigned to secondary schools after the fifth grade, based on achievement tests, leading to large differences in the school environments to which students of differing initial levels of achievement are exposed. I use instrumental variables based on the discontinuities created by the assignment mechanism and exploit rich data which include students’ test scores at entry and secondary school preferences to address self-selection bias. I find that attending a better school has large positive effects on examination performance at the end of secondary school. The effects are about twice as large for girls than for boys.