Another One Rides the Bus: The Impact of School Transportation on Student Outcomes in Michigan

By Danielle Sanderson Edwards. Last Updated: February 2021

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Abstract

School transportation may increase student outcomes by providing a reliable and safe means of getting to and from school. Little evidence of the effects of such policies exists. In this paper, I provide some of the first causal evidence of transportation impacts on student attendance and achievement using a rich panel of student-level enrollment and address data for Michigan public school students, and a unique dataset of district transportation policies for the largest 50 districts in Michigan. I exploit the walking distance cutoffs that determine transportation eligibility using a regression discontinuity design. I find that transportation eligibility increases attendance rates and lowers the probability of chronic absence. These effects are largest for economically disadvantaged students, who experience 0.5 to 1 percentage point increase in attendance rates and a 2 to 4 percentage point decrease in the probability of being chronically absent. These results are compelling evidence that school-provided transportation increases attendance for students most at-risk to miss school. However, I find no effect of school transportation on student achievement outcomes.

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