Evaluating the Effects of New School Facilities on Student Achievement and Attendance
Julien Lafortune

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of California, Berkeley

Primary Discipline

Capital expenditures represent a significant portion of US public K-12 education spending, totaling over $45 billion in 2012. Despite the magnitude of these expenditures, there is little consensus in the literature on the effects of such spending on student outcomes. This paper provides new evidence on the effects of new school facilities on student academic outcomes and attendance rates, linking $9 billion in facilities spending to 5 million student-year records in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) from 2002-2012. Since 1997, LAUSD has constructed and renovated hundreds of school facilities as a part of the largest US public school construction project in US history. Exploiting variation in the timing and location of the new school constructions in LAUSD, we find that spending 4 years in a newly constructed facility increases standardized test scores by 10% of a standard deviation in math, and 5% in English-language arts. Effects cumulate with multiple years of exposure to new facilities. Moreover, students at new school facilities attend an average of 4 additional days of school per academic year and elementary students show increases in teacher-reported effort, providing evidence of additional non-cognitive impacts of school facility improvements. Effects do not appear to be driven by changes in class size, teacher composition, peer composition, or student sorting.
About Julien Lafortune
Julien Lafortune is a PhD Candidate in Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, with a particular focus on the economics of education and labor economics. His research uses quasi-experimental methods to examine the impact and efficacy of educational policies. In prior work, Julien has studied the impacts of school finance reforms on student achievement and the heterogeneous effects of tracking regimes in secondary school math curricula. Currently, his dissertation research focuses on the effect of school capital expenditures on student and neighborhood outcomes. Before beginning his graduate studies, Julien earned a B.S. in economics from the University of Michigan.

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