Seth Gershenson is Associate Professor of Public Policy in American University’s School of Public Affairs.

He earned his Ph.D. in Economics from Michigan State University in 2011 and a B.S. in Economics from Drexel University in 2005.

His primary research interests are in the economics of education, specifically issues relating to teacher labor markets, parents’ and students’ time use, summer learning loss, the development of character skills, and the role of expectations in the education production function.

Dr. Gershenson’s research has been supported by the W.E. Upjohn Institute, the Spencer Foundation, and the American Educational Research Association and has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as the Economics of Education Review, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Economics Letters, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Education Finance and Policy, and Transportation Research Part A.

He joined IZA as a Research Fellow in July 2015.



IZA Discussion Paper No. 10630

Black primary-school students matched to a same-race teacher perform better on standardized tests and face more favorable teacher perceptions, yet little is known about the long-run, sustained impacts of student-teacher demographic match. We show that assigning a black male to a black teacher in the third, fourth, or fifth grades...

IZA Discussion Paper No. 10459

Ten years of administrative data from a diverse, private, top-100 law school are used to examine the ways in which female and nonwhite students benefit from exposure to demographically similar faculty in first-year required law courses. Arguably causal impacts of exposure to same-sex and same-race instructors on course-specific outcomes such...

IZA Discussion Paper No. 10165

We develop and estimate a joint model of the education and teacher-expectation production functions that identifies both the distribution of biases in teacher expectations and the impact of those biases on student outcomes via self-fulfilling prophecies. The identification strategy leverages insights from the measurement-error literature and a unique feature of...

IZA Discussion Paper No. 10091
Forthcoming in Journal of Economic Geography, 2017

We document externalities of the civic unrest experienced in Ferguson, MO following the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager. Difference-in-differences and synthetic control method estimates compare Ferguson-area schools to neighboring schools in the greater St. Louis area and find that the unrest led to statistically significant, arguably causal declines...

IZA Discussion Paper No. 9978
published in: Teachers College Record, 2016, ID No. 21629.

Whether or not value-added models should control for contemporaneous student absences is theoretically ambiguous, as such absences are only partly outside of teachers' control. Teachers often feel strongly that value-added models should account for student attendance, and many districts' value-added models condition on lagged student absences as a result. Using...

IZA Discussion Paper No. 9956
Jimmy R. Ellis, Seth Gershenson

Many male and first-generation college goers struggle in their first year of postsecondary education. Mentoring programs have been touted as a potential solution to help such students acclimate to college life, yet causal evidence on the impact of such programs, and the factors that influence participation in them, is scant....

IZA Discussion Paper No. 9887

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws. Previous research shows that these laws increase marijuana use among adults. In this paper, we estimate the effects of medical marijuana laws (MML) on secondary and post-secondary students' time use using time diaries from the American Time Use...

IZA Discussion Paper No. 9558
Seth Gershenson, Alison Jacknowitz, Andrew Brannegan
published in: Education Finance and Policy, 2017, 12(2): 137-165.

Student absences are a potentially important, yet understudied, input in the educational process. Using longitudinal data from a nationally-representative survey and rich administrative records from North Carolina, we investigate the relationship between student absences and academic performance. Generally, student absences are associated with modest but statistically significant decreases in academic...

IZA Discussion Paper No. 9554
Forthcoming in Policy Studies Journal, 2017

Representative bureaucracy theory is central to public administration scholarship due to the likely relationship between the demographic composition of the public workforce and both the actual and perceived performance of public organizations. Primary school classrooms provide an ideal context in which to test the predictions of representative bureaucracy theory at...

IZA Discussion Paper No. 9305
published in: Economics Letters, 2016, 141, 48-51

Recent research exploits a variety of natural experiments that create exogenous variation in annual school days to estimate the average effect of formal schooling on students' academic achievement. However, the extant literature's focus on average effects masks potentially important variation in the effect of formal schooling across the achievement distribution....