Scott-Clayton, Judith E. (js3676) | Teachers College Columbia University

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Scott-Clayton, Judith
Associate Professor of Economics and Education
Senior Research Associate, Community College Research Center
Education Policy and Social Analysis

428 Thndk

Office Hours:
Please e-mail me to make an appointment.

Educational Background

Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Ph.D. in Public Policy (2009)
Wellesley College, B.A. in Sociology, summa cum laude (2000)

Scholarly Interests

Judith Scott-Clayton is an Associate Professor of Economics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, where she teaches courses on labor economics and quantitative methods for causal inference.  She is also a Senior Research Associate at the Community College Research Center (CCRC) based at Teachers College, and a Faculty Research Fellow of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Her primary areas of study are labor economics and higher education policy, with a particular focus on financial aid, student employment, and programmatic barriers to persistence and completion at the non-selective public two- and four year institutions that enroll the majority of undergraduates.
Scott-Clayton's research has been published in the Journal of Human Resources, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Education Finance and Policy, and the Future of Children.  Her recent research on the predictive validity of college placement exams merited an article and editorial in the New York Times, and has influenced state and institutional policies on remedial testing. Her quasi-experimental study of the impact of West Virginia's PROMISE scholarship (a state-funded merit-based tuition grant) received coverage from CNN and The New York Times Magazine. Her work examining the adverse consequences of complexity in the federal student aid application process has contributed to national policy debates about financial aid simplification. Ongoing projects include an evaluation of the impact of remediation on future college outcomes, an examination of the consequences of student employment, and an effort to link administrative data sources to analyze the impact of postsecondary experiences on future earnings trajectories.
Scott-Clayton is an active participant in policy working groups at the state and federal level, and she has contributed to the New York Times' Economix and Upshot blogs, focusing on current topics in education. 
An old CV is available here (most recent version always available via e-mail request)
Watch/read her November 2013 testimony to the U.S. Senate on the need for financial aid reform. 
Read her posts on the New York Times Economix Blog and The Upshot blog.  
For links to news coverage, click on "Vitae" above and then click on "Personal News."

Students, the syllabus for Fall 2014 EDPE 6023 (Causal Methods in Education Policy Research) is now posted.

Selected Publications

Work-in-progress. "Should We Subsidize Student Employment? Conditional Counterfactuals and the Outcomes of Work-Study Participation," NBER Working Paper No. 20329 (with Veronica Minaya).

Forthcoming. "Improving the Targeting of Treatment: Evidence from College Remediation" (with Peter Crosta and Clive Belfield). Accepted in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Also available as NBER Working Paper No. 18457.

Forthcoming. "Development, Discouragement, or Diversion? New Evidence on the Effects of College Remediation" (with Olga Rodriguez). Accepted in Education Finance and Policy. Also available as NBER Working Paper No. 18328. 

Forthcoming. "The Shapeless River: Does a Lack of Structure Inhibit Students' Progress at Community Colleges?" in Baum, S., Castleman, B., & Schwartz, S. (eds.). London: Routledge. Earlier version available as Community College Working Paper No. 25 (January 2011).

2013. "Financial Aid Policy: Lessons From Research" (with Susan M. Dynarski). The Future of Children, 23(1): 67-92.

 "Information Constraints and Financial Aid Policy," in Heller, D. & Callender, C. (eds.), Student Financing of Higher Education: A Comparative Perspective, London: Routledge International Studies in Higher Education. Forthcoming. Also available at
"Do High-Stakes Placement Exams Predict College Success?" Community College Research Center Working Paper, no. 41 (February 2012) 

"What Explains Trends in Labor Supply Among U.S. Undergraduates?"
National Tax Journal, vol. 65, no. 1 (March 2012), pp. 181-210. Also available as NBER Working Paper No. 17744

"The Causal Effect of Federal Work-Study Participation: Quasi-Experimental Evidence From West Virginia."
 Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, vol. 33, no. 4 (December 2011), pp. 506-527

 "On Money and Motivation: A Quasi-Experimental Analysis of Financial Incentives for College Achievement." Journal of Human Resources, vol. 46 (Summer 2011), no. 3: pp. 614-646.

  "Assessing Developmental Assessment in Community Colleges: A Review of the Literature". (with Katherine Hughes). Community College Review, vol. 39, no. 4 (October, 2011), pp. 327-351.

 "College Grants on a Postcard: A Proposal for Simple and Predictable Student Aid". (with Susan M. Dynarski). Hamilton Project Discussion Paper (January 2007). Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution

 "The Cost of Complexity in Federal Student Aid: Lessons from Optimal Tax Theory and Behavioral Economics". (with Susan M. Dynarski). National Tax Journal 59:2 (June 2006), pp. 319-356.

Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM)
American Economics Association (AEA)
The Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP)
Education and Interstate Mobility:
This project involves linking postsecondary data from Florida to national administrative employment data from the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics database. First, the researchers will examine the link between specific educational pathways and cross-state mobility. Second, because they can track students across state lines, they will examine national returns to schooling and track students over a longer time period than would be feasible with single-state data. Third, by establishing the link between specific educational pathways and cross-state mobility, they will be able to estimate the direction and magnitude of bias that results when researchers must rely on single-state databases.
This project will analyze data from cohorts of two- and four-year entrants to Florida’s public higher education system between 1991–92 and 2003–04. These data are matched to administrative state employment and earnings records. The researchers will examine the effects of mixing work and schooling on employment and educational outcomes. Specifically, they will study the effects of access to the Federal Work Study (FWS) program, which encourages on-campus work, on educational and labor market outcomes up to five years following anticipated college graduation date.
Subject-Area Incentives:
Using administrative data the researchers will study the impacts of two major new programs intended to encourage students to pursue educational and career paths in high-need fields. The researchers will utilize quasi-experimental approaches to estimate the effects of these programs. An important aspect of this study will be an examination of program take-up rates, given the concern that students may not be aware of all relevant federal-level policies. These data include information determining program eligibility, actual program participation, and academic and labor market outcomes for all cohorts up to two years following college completion.
New Evidence on the Impact of Remediation from a Large Urban Community College System (with Olga Rodriguez):
Using data come from the administrative records of a large urban community college system, the researchers will first examine whether remedial assignment affects the initial enrollment decision or the timing of initial enrollment. Second. they will also examine whether remediation impacts performance on a subsequent standardized exam that is required in order to receive a degree.  Thrid, because they can take advantage of the diversity of this community college system, they will also examine potential heterogeneity in the impact of remediation – across students, institutions, and over time. 
Do High-Stakes Placement Exams Predict College Success?:
This project contributes to the literature by analyzing the predictive validity of one of the most commonly used assessments, using data on over 42,000 first-time entrants to a large urban community college system. Using both traditional correlation coefficients as well as more useful decision-theoretic measures of placement accuracy and error rates, the researcher finds that placement exams are more predictive of success in math than in English, and more predictive of who is likely to do well in college-level coursework than of who is likely to fail.
Learn more: CCRCCAPSEE
2011-2016      Institute for Education Sciences, Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment, ($ 10,000,000, PI: Tom Bailey): Co-director of policy analyses
2010-2011      Spencer Foundation Grant  ($25,000)
2010              Spencer Foundation Exemplary Dissertation Award
2008-2009      Spencer Foundation Dissertation Completion Fellowship

2005-2008      National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (awarded 2003)

2004-2009      Doctoral Fellowship, Harvard University Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy
                     (National Science Foundation IGERT Program)


Related Articles

CCRC's Judith Scott-Clayton Testifies Before Senate Committee

The senior research associate at the Community College Research Center said easier access to financial aid improves college access.


Scott-Clayton Proposes Changes to Pell Grant System

The Assistant Professor at the Community College Research Center proposes major structural changes to improve college student outcomes.


Judy Scott-Clayton on College Rankings in the New York Times

Judith Scott-Clayton weighs in on the difficulty of ranking higher education institutions in an article in the New York Times.


TC's Scott-Clayton Comments on President Obama's College Affordability Plan

Judith Scott-Clayton, Assistant Professor in Economics & Education, discusses the factors that affect the cost of college attendance in a New York Times article about President Obama's college affordability plan.


Study: Remedial Courses Aren't Good College Prep, But May Serve Other Purposes

A study by TC's Judith Scott-Clayton and Olga Rodriguez found that, while remedial course are ineffective as college preparation, they can help students unlikely to get far in college.


Study Co-Authored by TC's Scott-Clayton Suggests State Aid Reforms

The study, released by The Brookings Institution, suggests states move beyond "merit" and "need-based" tuition aid and innovate new ways to encourage students to enroll and complete college.


Scott-Clayton Research Suggests Many College Students Misdiagnosed as Ill-Prepared

In the New York Times Economix blog, the assistant professor and researcher at TC's Community College Research Center, says research shows college-readiness tests are "only weakly related to college outcomes."


Judith Scott-Clayton: Are College Entrants Overdiagnosed as Needing Remedial Work?

The researcher and assistant professor at the Community College Research Center writes in the New York Times's "Economix" blog that early detection and treatment, in some cases, may harm the healthy by discouraging them from continuing in college.


Community Colleges Steer Students to Remedial Classes Who Don't Need Them

Two new studies from TC's Community College Research Center found that community colleges unnecessarily place tens of thousands of students in remedial classes.


CCRC's Scott-Clayton: Number of For-Profit Colleges Is Twice What's Reported

On the New York Times' Economix blog, Scott-Clayton writes that, counting those that don't receive federal aid, the reported number of for-profit colleges doubles.


Do Big-Time Sports Mean Big-Time Support for Universities?

The benefit of athletic programs to universities' bottom lines can be quantified, Judith Scott-Clayton, an Assistant Professor at TC's Community College Research Center, writes in the New York Times' Economix blog.


TC's Judith Scott-Clayton Finds Hours Worked By College Students Down Sharply from 2009

If students have relied on outside jobs to cover rising tuition costs, the drop in work hours due to a decline in available positions may be problematic, according to an article in Inside Higher Ed.


How much debt do students really take on for a bachelor's degree? (Hint: Probably not as much as you'd think.)

On the Economix blog of the New York Times, Judith Scott-Clayton, Judith Scott-Clayton, Assistant Professor of Economics and Education and a researcher at TC's Community College Research Center, reveals why student loan debt is generally less burdensome than reports of dramatic cases indicate.


Judith Scott-Clayton on New York Times' Economix Blog: "College is Cheaper Than You Think"

College sticker prices are higher than what most students pay, writes Scott-Clayton, an associate professor of economics and education and senior research associate at TC's Community College Research Center.


Education Leaders and Researchers Launch New Center on Education and Employment

Higher education experts from across the nation kicked off TC's new federally funded Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE), which will research how well different post-secondary pathways prepare students for the workforce.


A Hard Look at Financial Aid and Jobs Programs

Blogging for the New York Times, TC's Judith Scott-Clayton argues that now is not the time to reduce federal investments in financial aid and jobs programs -- but that in its current form, federal work-study may better serve the interests of privileged institutions than those of needy students.


How Long Does it Take to Earn a Four-Year Degree? For a Majority, Five Years

Judith Scott-Clayton, on the New York Times "Economix" blog, writes that even for students who attend college full-time, 45 percent take at least an extra year to complete a four-year degree.


TC's Scott-Clayton Joins Economists' Call to "Cut Pell Wisely"

Judith Scott-Clayton, assistant professor in economics and education and senior research associate at the Community College Research Center, signed an open letter to Gaston Caperton, president of The College Board, suggesting ways to cut the national Pell Grant program "wisely."


Student-Loan Debt at an All-Time High, Writes TC's Judith Scott-Clayton

In the New York Times' Economix blog, Scott-Clayton writes that "the increase has heightened longstanding concerns that college students are borrowing too much."


Scott-Clayton Advocates More Structure, Fewer Choices, for College Students

Blogging on The New York Times' "Economix" site, Judith Scott-Clayton, assistant professor at the Community College Research Center, says too much choice can lead to cognitive overload, procrastination and dissaatisfaction in college.


TC's Judith Scott-Clayton Writes About the Merits of For-Profit Colleges

Scott-Clayton will write periodically for the New York Times blog "Economix."


New York Times Cites Scott-Clayton Research

Citing research by Judith Scott-Clayton, Assistant Professor and senior researcher at TC's Community College Research Center, David Leonhardt of the New York Times writes that West Virginia's policy requiring scholarship students to remain on track to graduate in four years has lifted the four-year graduation rate of recipients by almost 7 percentage points.


International Conference Will Examine Issues of Validity, Educational Assessment, Equity and Accountability

International stakeholders will gather for a conference and institute, from March 28 through March 31, to discuss how standardized tests and other assessments are constructed, what they measure, and whether the results are appropriately used.


TC President, 11 Faculty Make 2014 EduScholar Public Influence Rankings

Rankings by Rick Hess, education blogger for the American Enterprise Institute, include President Susan Fuhrman and Thomas Bailey, Jeff Henig, Luis Huerta, Sharon Lynn Kagan, Hank Levin, Ernest Morrell, Aaron Pallas, Michael Rebell, Judith Scott-Clayton, Amy Stuart Wells and Penny Wohlstetter. Hess annually ranks university scholars by their contributions to public debates about education.