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Title page for ETD etd-04032006-190901

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Frisvold, David E.
Author's Email Address david.e.frisvold@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-04032006-190901
Title Behavioral Responses to Educational Investments
Degree PhD
Department Economics
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
James E. Foster Committee Chair
Kathryn H. Anderson Committee Member
R. Dale Ballou Committee Member
Robert A. Margo Committee Member
William J. Collins Committee Member
  • Class Size
  • Head Start
  • Health
Date of Defense 2006-03-17
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation considers individuals’ behavioral responses to two major forms of public investment in education designed to increase educational opportunities: Head Start and reductions in class size.

Head Start is a comprehensive, early childhood development program designed to augment the human capital and health capital levels of disadvantaged children. Economic research suggests that early investments of this type could have lasting effects on health outcomes. The second chapter estimates the impact of Head Start participation on childhood overweight and obesity. This impact is identified from variation in the relative availability of Head Start in each community, as measured by the number of available slots per eligible child in the local community. For black children, Head Start participation is shown to significantly reduce the likelihood of being overweight or obese.

The third chapter evaluates the impact of Head Start on long-term health by comparing health outcomes and behavioral indicators of adults who attended Head Start with those of siblings who did not. The results suggest that there are long-term health benefits from participation in Head Start and that these benefits result from lifestyle changes.

The fourth chapter estimates the impact of class size on students’ effort, as measured by the amount of time students spend on homework. Reductions in class size are popular among parents, teachers, and policy makers because of the commonly held notion that smaller classes lead to more individualized attention for students and greater achievement. The greatest benefits from class size reduction policies are realized when the resulting change in incentives does not reduce or crowd out the private investments in education by students. This chapter demonstrates that smaller classes do not crowd out students’ effort. On the contrary, black students in smaller classes spend more time on homework.

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