What?s in a Label? The Impacts of Reading Proficiency Labels on Young Adult Outcomes
Tanya Sanabria

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



California State University, Los Angeles

Primary Discipline

Educational Policy
Despite previous research demonstrating that test score labels in high-stakes environments shape educational inequality, prior analyses overlooked the role of receiving a proficiency label in low-stakes environments on postsecondary outcomes and labor market performance. Using a novel dataset linking Oregon statewide administrative data with IRS tax records provided by the U.S. Census Bureau and postsecondary records from the National Student Clearinghouse (2005-2019), I investigate the long-term effects of proficiency labels received in third grade from low-stakes annual state standardized exams, examining how these effects operate through middle and high school achievement onto early adulthood outcomes. Employing a regression-discontinuity (RD) design, I estimate the plausibly causal impact of receiving a lower-status performance label on college enrollment, persistence, employment, and wages. Additionally, I investigate whether these labeling effects intersect with gender and racial inequality, focusing on how disparate educational opportunities ? reflected in the assignment of proficiency labels ? contribute to stratification in higher education and the labor market. Both the unique dataset and RD approach will reveal new insights on the effect of proficiency labels that eluded prior studies. Findings from the study can inform policies related to student assessment and proficiency labels.
About Tanya Sanabria
Tanya Sanabria is an Assistant Professor at California State University, Los Angeles. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, Irvine (2019), and her B.A. in Sociology from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (2012). Her primary areas of research include education policy, inequality, and social mobility. Using quantitative research methods, Dr. Sanabria?s research examines how schooling policies help or hinder students? transitions into adulthood. This involves two major strands: 1) investigations on how signals of academic performance (e.g., labels) contribute to unequal trajectories in educational and labor market pipelines; and 2) examinations around racial, ethnic, gender, and social class disparities in response to academic performance feedback (e.g., course failure) in K-12 and higher education. Her work has been published in Educational Researcher, Socius, Research in Higher Education, and Social Sciences. Prior to joining Cal State LA, Dr. Sanabria was a research intern at the United States Census Bureau for two years, linking school administrative data with census data.

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