Students Learn Less, and Score Worse, When Hot

(p. 11) A clever new working paper by Jisung Park, a Ph.D. student in economics at Harvard, compared the performances of New York City students on 4.6 million exams with the day’s temperature. He found that students taking a New York State Regents exam on a 90-degree day have a 12 percent greater chance of failing than when the temperature is 72 degrees.
The Regents exams help determine whether a student graduates and goes to college, and Park finds that when a student has the bad luck to have Regents exams fall on very hot days, he or she is slightly less likely to graduate on time.
Likewise, Park finds that when a school year has an unusual number of hot days, students do worse at the end of the year on their Regents exams, presumably because they’ve learned less. A school year with five extra days above 80 degrees leads students to perform significantly worse on Regents exams.
The New York City students in Park’s study do poorly on hot days even though the majority of city schools are air-conditioned (perhaps in part because the air-conditioning often barely works).

For the full commentary, see:
Kristof, Nicholas. “Temperatures Rise, and We’re Cooked.” The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., SEPT. 11, 2016): 11.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date SEPT. 10, 2016.)

The working paper by Jisung Park on the effects of heat, is:
Park, Jisung. “Heat Stress and Human Capital Production.” Harvard University, 2016.

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