Doctoral Student Fellowship

Candace Hamilton Hester, Goldman School of Public Policy

Investigation of the Mechanisms of the Decline of Teacher Quality



My dissertation research investigates the mechanisms by which teacher quality declined (Corcoran et al. 2004) and estimates the effect of various policy prescriptions at alleviating the decline.  My innovation uses state by cohort variation in the legalization of the birth control pill to estimate the decline in teacher quality related to birth control access at ages 18-19, “early legal pill access” (ELA).  My preliminary results suggest a 17 percent decline in the probability that a top IQ quintile woman with ELA will enter teaching as compared to those without access.  Conversely, I find that women with ELA at the middle of the IQ distribution are 16 percent more likely to enter the teaching profession as compared to those without access.   To provide a clearer picture of the occupational choice paradigm that women pursued, I examine the effect of ELA on women choosing to pursue a high wage career and find that indeed top IQ quintile women with ELA were 21 percent more likely to pursue a high wage career as compared to women without access.  These preliminary results suggest the significance of birth control pill access in early adulthood on the occupational trajectory of women and that this change in career choice has had negative consequences on teacher quality.  Moreover, the implications of this work suggest avenues for understanding the mechanism by which high ability women pursue various occupations and thereby policy solutions for ameliorating teacher quality in the future, principally through elevated teacher pay.