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The Impact of High School Leadership on Subsequent Educational Attainment*


  • Data are available at the NCES. Author will provide all code necessary for replication. I would like to thank Tom Mroz, David Blau, Donna Gilleskie, David Guilkey, and Helen Tauchen for their guidance and advice. I am also grateful to three anonymous referees for their comments and suggestions. All errors are my own.

Direct correspondence to Kathryn E. Rouse, Department of Economics, Elon University, Elon, NC 27244 〈〉.



Universities increasingly emphasize the importance of leadership skills, but budget shortfalls in public high schools threaten the availability of leadership opportunities for many youths. Few studies, however, have examined the impact of high school leadership experience on key economic outcomes. This study narrows this gap by estimating the causal impact of leadership in high school on educational attainment measured several years later.


The article uses data from the National Education Longitudinal Study. To address selection bias, the effect of high school leadership is estimated using ordinary least squares, propensity score matching, and instrumental variables models.


Every estimation method and model specification examined implies that high school leadership has a large, positive impact on postsecondary educational attainment.


This article indicates the impact of high school leadership is, at a minimum, nontrivial. This result implies decisions regarding financial cutbacks for extracurricular activities should not be taken lightly.