The Student-Teacher Race Match Effect on Learning Skills and Behavioral Outcomes

Abstract: I provide evidence that diversifying the labor supply of teachers to better reflect the racial distribution of students increases learning and behavioral outcomes for students of color without diminishing outcomes for white students. I use administrative data spanning from 2007 to 2017 within the Los Angeles Unified School District, one of the most racially diverse school districts in the country, to measure the effect of student-teacher race matching on various noncognitive outcomes. I mitigate the concern that race matches are endogenous by including school-grade and student fixed effects into a linear regression model. This setting accounts for any potential sorting that occurs across schools with regards to the racial distribution of teachers as well as any unobserved time invariant student characteristics that may be correlated with race matching. Following a similar method from Jackson (2018), I generate a behavior (using suspensions, absences, and grade retention) and a learning skills (using GPA, marks for work habits, and marks for cooperation) index for each student and find that race matched students in grades 6 through 12 are expected to increase in their behavioral index by 0.041 standard deviations and increases in their learning skills index by 0.011 standard deviations. My findings indicate that students of color also experience increases in the individual components of GPA, work habits, and cooperation and see decreases in absenteeism when matched with a teacher of the same race. I do not find statistically significant effects on any of these outcomes for White students. Because noncognitive outcomes lead to higher high school graduation rates, college enrollment rates, and wages (Heckman et al.,2013; Heckman et al., 2012; Jackson, 2018), such effects could lead to a tightening in the achievement and wage gap found between students of color and white students. This result can be achieved with an increase in institutional efforts to ensure teacher populations more closely reflect that of their students.