W. Jesse Wood

W. Jesse Wood

PhD Candidate in Economics

Michigan State University


W. Jesse Wood is an applied microeconomist and APPAM 2021 Equity and Inclusion Fellow. His research interests include the economics of education, policy analysis, applied econometrics, public economics, and labor economics. His job-market paper studies the effect of student-teacher race matching on non-cognitive outcomes, i.e. going beyond test scores. He finds that students of color—when matched to a teacher of the same race—earn higher GPA, show greater effort and cooperation, and have fewer absences and suspensions.

Jesse has experience working on interdisciplinary teams through the Education Policy Innovation Collaborative (https://epicedpolicy.org), where he has studied the causal links between student achievement and new school openings, school choice and mobility, and various measures of teacher quality. Prior to starting his graduate studies, Jesse led a team of engineers to quickly design airfields, roads, and tank trails for U.S. Army bases, and to present the resulting plans to high-ranking military officers for their approval. Thus, he has experience working in a high-stakes, team-based environment under a time constraint and clearly communicating the results of his work to key decision makers.

Here is a link to his CV.

  • Economics of Education
  • Policy Analysis
  • Applied Econometrics
  • Labor Economics
  • PhD in Economics, Expected 2022

    Dual Major with Economics of Education

    Michigan State University

  • MA in Economics, 2016

    University of Texas - Austin

  • BS in Applied Mathematics, 2015

    Minor in Business

    Auburn University

Working Papers

Old School or New School? Effects of School Openings on Student Outcomes in a Degregulated Education Market

Proponents of school choice argue that deregulating public education would allow for new firms to enter the market, generating competitive pressure on existing schools to increase educational quality. Although there exists a large school choice literature evaluating whether competitive pressure, created by more schooling options, leads to achievement gains, little attention has been paid to the direct effect of introducing new schools to the marketplace on student outcomes. This study provides some of the first evidence concerning the effects of school openings in a deregulated market. Specifically, we study school openings in Michigan where students can participate in interdistrict, intradistrict, and charter school choice. Furthermore, no caps exist for the number of charter schools or the number of students who can attend a school outside of their resident district, and universities and colleges can authorize charter schools anywhere in the state. In fact, there have been over 500 school openings in the past decade, a third of which have been charter schools. Thus, this setting provides the ideal situation to evaluate whether market induced changes in the supply of schools increase achievement. In accordance with prior literature concerning newly built schools, our preliminary results suggest that students who attend newly opened schools experience a decrease in achievement in the first year the school is open with increases in test scores in future years. These results may imply that new schools, whether or not they are located in new buildings, may need extra support in the first year from their district or management organization in order to offset the initial negative effects of school openings.

Are Effective Teachers for Students with Disabilities Effective Teachers for All?

Students with disabilities make up approximately 14% of the K-12 student population, and over 60 percent of these students spend 80% or more of their time in school in the general education classroom setting. While the intention behind mainstreaming is to enable students with disabilities (SWDs) to learn in the least restrictive environment, it is nonetheless important to understand the quality of education they receive in these environments. In particular, general education teachers (GETs) typically enter the field with limited preparation to work with students with disabilities. Only seven states require all teachers to complete coursework for working with SWDs, and only two require clinical experiences working with these students. Thus, general education teachers are likely to receive minimal coverage of special education teaching methods in their coursework and have few practice opportunities focused on SWDs. To test the relative effectiveness of GETs with SWDs, we leverage Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) administrative data from SY 2007-2008 through SY 2017-2018 and disaggregate overall measures of teacher effectiveness into measures focusing specifically on SWDs and non-SWDs. Specifically, we generate two different sets of value-added measures (VAMs) for each teacher (n = 6,200): a SWD VAM and a non-SWD VAM. We find that a sizeable amount of the top performing teachers for non-SWDs are not necessarily the most effective teachers for SWDs (as measured by VAMs). This result holds across both math and ELA courses. Students with disabilities also have a higher (lower) probability of being taught by teachers within the lowest (highest) quintile of SWD and non-SWD VAMs within schools. These preliminary results suggest that teachers may need additional training to become successful helping SWDs to learn. Moreover, these findings raise concerns about the equitable distribution of high-quality teachers to students with disabilities, suggesting that school and district leaders may need to proactively consider the placement of SWDs with teachers who are more adept at teaching this critical population of students.