Adolescent mental health, substitute teacher shortages, and more

This week in Class Notes:

High-speed Internet worsens the mental health of adolescents, especially girls

Does internet access affect the mental health and behavior of teenagers and young adults? Esther Arenas-Arroyo and co-authors investigate this question using the introduction of high-speed internet (HSI) in different areas of Spain between 2007 and 2019. The introduction of fiber optic internet in the country was influenced by a number of historical and political factors more than socio-economic ones , providing exogenous variation for the study. Using administrative data on discharge diagnoses from public and private hospitals in Spain, the authors found that HSI increased behavioral and mental health problems among 15-19-year-olds, with girls driving much of the effect. In particular, HSI led to more anxiety, mood disorders, substance abuse, self-harm, and suicide attempts. Based on separate data from ESTUDES, a study of 14- to 18-year-old Spanish teenagers, the researchers also found that HSI access appeared to “crowd out” time for sleep, homework, and socialization. This article adds to the growing literature on the effects of Internet and social media use by examining a time period in which popular platforms emerged, including Instagram (2012) and TikTok (2017).

Incentive pay programs help reduce the shortage of substitute teachers

Even before COVID-19, there was a shortage of substitute teachers for K-12 schools. This has implications for fairness. In Chicago Public Schools (CPS), black students are three times more likely than white students to experience an uncovered teacher absence, and low-income students are twice as likely as more affluent students. Can financial incentives help? Matthew A. Craft and co-authors evaluate a 2018 CPS program that offers bonuses to substitute teachers working in schools with the lowest fill rates. Using a regression discontinuity design, they found that the bonuses led to a 23 percentage point increase in the number of substitution requests completed at the 75 target schools. The effects are most concentrated among female teachers, black and Hispanic teachers, and among substitute teachers who previously worked in the schools. Teacher absences also increased by 3.5 days, but largely for professional development rather than sick or personal days.

SNAP benefits matter for SAT performance

Can Access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Improve Academic Performance? Timothy N. Bond and co-authors examine whether the timing of SNAP payments affects SAT scores. Some states issue SNAP benefits to program participants in one day, others distribute payments over the month, such as by last name. Bond et al. use variation over time in seven states and Washington to compare student SAT scores. They found that students taking the SAT in the second half of the month following a SNAP payment scored six points lower than those who took the test in the first two weeks. They are also less likely to attend a four-year college. Those who attend college are less likely to attend a more selective school.

Top chart: The number of same-sex households exceeds 1 million in 2021

Using the American Community Survey, the Census Bureau released updated numbers for same-sex couple households in the U.S. In 2021, there were about 1.2 million, with approximately 710,000 married and 500,000 single. Greater shares of same-sex couples have both partners with at least a bachelor’s degree than opposite-sex households. A higher proportion of same-sex couples are also interracial compared to opposite-sex couples.

Choice opinion: Ban the cell phone ban

“[C]The ellphone bans follow a wider trend of banning many things in schools, from books to loudspeakers to certain types of speech or debate topics. Cell phones may be another easy scare, but blanket bans are ill-informed and regressive. While we may not see a major reversal of phone bans anytime soon, we should. Field teachers must choose for themselves when and whether to allow their students to bring cell phones into class so that they can use educational applications to help students progress,” writes Michael B. Horne in Education Next.

Self-promotion: Immigrants play an important role in supporting the elder care market

As the U.S. population ages, the need to provide better care for the elderly grows, especially since most of the elderly population prefers to age at home. In this paper, Christine F. Butcher, Kelsey Moran, and Tara Watson examine how immigrant labor is an important part of enabling older people to age at home. They find that a larger, less educated immigrant labor force is associated with a 1.5 percentage point lower probability of institutionalization for those aged 65 or older and a 3.8 percentage point lower probability for those of 80 years and older.

For your calendar: events on broadband, school finance and equitable community development

The state of broadband during one year of IIJA

The Brookings Institution

Thursday, December 15, 2022 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EST

School Finance and Equity in Education

The Brookings Institution

Friday, December 16, 2022, 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM EST

Advancing Racial Equity in Our Communities: Engaging Communities in Equitable Development

City Institute

Friday, December 16, 2022 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EST

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