Sean Corcoran
Associate Professor of Educational Economics, NYU Steinhardt

Sean P. Corcoran (Ph.D, University of Maryland, 2003) is an associate professor of educational economics at the Steinhardt School of Education, New York University. He was recently (2005-06) a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation as part of a working group on the Political Economy of Inequality in America's Public Schools. His research interests include state and local public finance, labor economics, the economics of education, and applied (micro) econometrics. Professor Corcoran is also a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.

Date Publication/Paper

Stoddard, C. & Corcoran, S.P. 2007. The Political Economy of School Choice: Support for Charter Schools Across States and School Districts Journal of Urban Economics, July 2007, Vol. 62 Issue 1, p27-54, 28p.

Public charter schools are one of the fastest growing education reforms in the US, currently serving more than a million students. Though the movement for greater school choice is widespread, its implementation has been uneven. State laws differ greatly in the degree of latitude granted charter schools, and-holding constant state support-states and localities vary widely in the availability of and enrollment in these schools. In this paper, we use a panel of demographic, financial, and school performance data to examine the support for charters at the state and local levels. Results suggest that growing population heterogeneity and income inequality-in addition to persistently low student outcomes-are associated with greater support for charter schools. Teachers unions have been particularly effective in slowing or preventing liberal state charter legislation; however, conditional on law passage and strength, local participation in charter schools rises with the share of unionized teachers.


Corcoran, S., Evans, W.N. & Schwab, R.M. 2004. Women, the Labor Market, and the Declining Relative Quality of Teachers Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, v. 23 n. 3, Summer 2004
View report

School officials and policymakers have grown increasingly concerned about their ability to attract and retain talented teachers. A number of authors have shown that in recent years the brightest students - at least those with the highest verbal and math scores on standardized tests - are less likely to enter teaching. In addition, it is frequently claimed that the ability of schools to attract these top students has been steadily declining for years. There is, however, surprisingly little evidence measuring the extent to which this popular proposition is true. We have good reason to suspect that the quality of those entering teaching has fallen over time. Teaching has for years remained a predominately female profession; at the same time, the employment opportunities for talented women outside teaching have soared. In this paper, we combine data from five longitudinal surveys of high school graduates spanning the classes of 1957 to 1992 to examine how the propensity for talented women to enter teaching has changed over time. While the quality of the average new female teacher has fallen only slightly over this period, the likelihood that a female from the top of her high school class will eventually enter teaching has fallen dramatically. © 2004 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

Corcoran, S., Evans, W.N. & Schwab, R.M. 2004. Changing Labor Market Opportunities for Women and the Quality of Teachers, 1957 - 2000 American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings of the American Economic Association, v. 94, n.2, May 2004

This study focuses on the changing labor-market opportunities for women, and teacher quality in the U.S., from 1957 to 2000. The study data consist of longitudinal surveys of five cohorts of high-school graduates. These five surveys are alike in that they each include results from a questionnaire administered during the senior year. All require participation in a battery of aptitude test scores for all students, which allows us to place graduates into a cohort skill distribution and to assess how the propensity for women or men with high relative scores to enter teaching has changed over time. Despite a small number of cross-sectional study that have examined the characteristics of college graduates choosing to enter teaching, there has been little empirical evidence on how these characteristics have changed over a long period of time. The study found sound evidence of slight but detectable decline in the relative ability of the average new female teacher, when ability is measured as one's centile rank in the distribution of high-school graduates on a standardized test of verbal and mathematical aptitude. The magnitude of this decline is even greater when measuring ability using standardized scores. The study also found that examination of the entire distribution of new teachers is more informative than trends in central tendency alone.