July 2020

IZA DP No. 13558: A Closer Look: Proximity Boosts Homeless Student Performance in New York City

Proximity augments homeless students' educational outcomes. Homeless K-8 graders whose families are placed in shelters near their schools have 8 percent (2.4 days) better attendance, are a third (18 percentage points) less likely to change schools, and exhibit higher rates of proficiency and retention. Homeless high schoolers have 5 percent (2.5 days) better attendance, 29 percent (10 pp) lower mobility, and 8 percent (1.6 pp) greater retention when placed locally. These results proceed from novel administrative data on homeless families observed in the context of a scarcity-induced natural experiment in New York City. A complementary instrumental variable strategy exploiting homeless eligibility policy reveals a subset of proximity-elastic students benefit considerably more. Panel evidence demonstrates homelessness does not cause educational impairment as much as reflect large preexisting deficits.