Shuyuan Li

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Amy Ellen Schwartz

Second Advisor

Maria Zhu


BMI screening and reporting;Disadvantaged students;Minority students;School accountability;Selective public high schools;Social-emotional outcomes

Subject Categories

Economics | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This dissertation is comprised of three essays on the Economics of Education. The first and third chapters study school accountability policies in the US, while the second chapter investigates a specific feature of BMI reporting in New York City. The first chapter investigates if school accountability pressure under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has succeeded in helping disadvantaged students catch up to their more advantaged peers and explores potential underlying mechanisms. I use administrative data for Title 1 public elementary and middle schools in North Carolina and adopt a difference-in-differences strategy, estimated with the method proposed by Gardner (2022). I indirectly test the underlying identification assumption with event studies and find similar pre-trends. I find that among Title 1 schools, school accountability pressure in math produces significantly larger effects on math z-scores for the traditionally low-performing student subgroups: black, Hispanic, economically disadvantaged, and students with disabilities. Furthermore, I show these larger effects in math among disadvantaged groups are driven by the larger effects among low-performing students and the fact that significantly more students in these disadvantaged groups are low-performing. I find smaller effects of reading accountability pressure on reading z-scores, and the largest effect appears among Hispanic students. The second chapter examines the impacts of informing obese middle school girls in New York City (NYC) of their obesity on various outcomes, including social-emotional, behavioral, academic, and weight outcomes. We take advantage of comprehensive student-level data from NYC public schools and adopt a regression discontinuity design. We find that though notifying obese girls of their classification produces mild effects on average, it produces consistent positive impacts among Hispanic girls on seven outcomes out of nine we investigated. The impacts for other race groups are more muted and mixed. We find limited impacts for Black and Asian girls and null effects for White girls. The heterogeneity across race/ethnicity groups might suggest cultural preferences and attitudes affect the impacts of obesity reporting among middle school girls in NYC. Our results speak to the discrete categorization as obese for middle school girls with BMIs near the obese cutoff, not to the overall effect of BMI reporting in NYC. The third chapter studies the impact of the introduction of accountability policies in states in the 1990s on racial composition in elite public high schools in the US. I draw a list of elite public high schools from Finn and Hockett (2012) and utilize Common Core Data and a difference-in-differences strategy. I indirectly test the underlying identification assumption by event studies and find similar pre-trends between treated and untreated elite schools. This study finds that the introduction of school accountability policies leads to decreased representation of black students and increased representation of white students in the elite public high schools. Furthermore, I find the compositional changes are driven by a large drop of black students and a slight increase of white students, and the results are not driven by the opening of the elite schools over time.


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