Finding the Fit: Childhood Homelessness, Athletics, and the Microeconomics of Educational Performance
Michael Cassidy

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Primary Discipline

It is hard to conceive of a population more disadvantaged than homeless children, or of an antidote more proven than education. Yet curiously, economists have virtually ignored their plight. Similarly, despite a well-documented appreciation of the enduring legacy of childhood health, few studies rigorously investigate the causal link between physical fitness and educational outcomes. My dissertation consists of three applied microeconomic papers that remedy these deficits. Two study family homelessness. Using an original administrative dataset in the context of a scarcity induced-natural experiment in New York City, I investigate how exogenous variation in government benefits affects behavior. The policy I evaluate is the City's longstanding strategy of placing families in shelters in the neighborhoods where their youngest children attend school. The first chapter investigates homeless children's contemporaneous educational outcomes, exploring the impact of proximity on attendance, proficiency, promotion, mobility, and retention. In the second chapter, I turn to the family as a whole, assessing the policy's effects on length of stay in shelter, public benefit use, and parental employment. My third paper expands the inquiry to all primary school students, but considers a similarly-underappreciated academic intervention: aerobic exercise. The school-based distance running program I study is a promising means of jointly addressing childhood inactivity and academic lethargy, especially among disadvantaged youth. Exercise can be public policy. In addition to their policy relevance, these papers contribute to the literature on causal inference in microeconomics by applying an array of cutting-edge econometric techniques, including instrumental variables, regression discontinuity, fixed effects, and difference-in-differences.
About Michael Cassidy
Mike Cassidy is an Economics Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers University. Using the insights of economic theory and the methods of microeconometrics, Mike's work endeavors to understand how individuals make decisions and how policy can help them make better ones. His animating passion is to improve the well-being of the poor, and he believes quantifying causality through rigorous empiricism offers the best hope of doing so (or at least reflects his comparative advantage). Prior to joining Rutgers, Mike held positions with the New York City Office of Management and Budget and The Century Foundation. At OMB, Mike oversaw the City's social service agencies, an experience in policy administration that continues to inform his research. In complementary fashion, Mike's time at TCF?a progressive think tank where he remains a non-resident fellow?honed his policy analysis and writing skills. In between, he obtained a Master in Public Affairs, with distinction, from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and in Political Science, summa cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania. When he's not playing with Stata, Mike is a competitive distance runner, competing and training year-round in hopes of improving his marathon personal best of 2:18:52 and returning to the U.S. Olympic Trials. Born and raised in Staten Island, New York, Mike now lives in Manhattan with his wife Molly and their infant son, Max.

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