Does Subsidized Public Health Insurance for Parents Improve Children’s Human Capital and Close Achievement Gaps?

Did the state-level expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act improve academic outcomes for low-income children?

This study asks whether federal health policy is an effective lever for reducing socioeconomic gaps in test scores, which, scholars argue, would reduce long-term educational and income inequality. Using the natural experiment resulting from state choice to expand Medicaid, Gangopadhyaya and Schiman will examine whether the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Medicaid expansion has had a positive effect on 3rd through 8th grade mathematics and reading achievement among children whose family income is below 138% of the federal poverty level, the threshold for Medicaid eligibility. To do so, the team will draw from four national datasets: the Stanford Educational Data Archive, the National Survey of Children’s Health, the Current Population Survey, and the American Time Use Survey. The study uses a difference-in-difference design to estimate the effects of ACA Medicaid expansion on test scores. It also explores potential mechanisms through which Medicaid expansion is expected to affect educational achievement. Event history models will supplement each of the analyses to assess whether underlying trends in outcomes differed prior to Medicaid expansion and to characterize the dynamics of the impact of Medicaid expansion on the outcomes. The investigators theorize that if subsidized public health insurance improves children’s education and health outcomes, it will also improve their lifetime wellbeing. This study is an opportunity to explore how a large-scale social policy change may reduce inequality.