2019 Annual Report

On behalf of the entire MIT Blueprint Labs team, we want to extend a heartfelt thank you for your support this year. 2019 has seen a number of exciting developments at Blueprint and we can’t wait to see what 2020 has in store!

Our faculty and affiliates continue to produce new, groundbreaking research on education. Recent Blueprint scholarship reveals how poverty disproportionally affects the academic and behavioral outcomes of male students, how school quality measures can be misleading, and how the flipped classroom model can exacerbate the achievement gap. You can learn more about this year’s publications below.

We also expanded our outreach to school districts and policymakers by launching a new fellowship program for education leaders. The MIT School Access and Quality Fellowship provides fellows with valuable technical training on school choice and enrollment systems in addition to connecting them to a national network of peers. Fellows convened for the first time at the MIT School Access and Quality Summit in November. This year’s Summit featured attendees from 17 research institutions, 19 districts, and 28 non-profits.

Finally, our scholars received several honors from the academic community. In March, Joshua Angrist was appointed an MIT MacVicar Faculty Fellow for his contributions to undergraduate education. Parag Pathak was named one of Science News’s “10 Scientists to Watch” for his use of matching theory in school choice. David Autor was honored with an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship that will allow him to continue his research on U.S. demographic shifts. Blueprint affiliate Camille Terrier also received the Distinguished CESifo Affiliate Award for her paper on charter school expansion.

Thank you for your continued engagement with Blueprint’s work.


Josh Angrist
Director, Blueprint Labs
Professor of Economics, MIT


Parag Pathak
Director, Blueprint Labs
Professor of Economics, MIT


David Autor
Co-Director, Blueprint Labs
Professor of Economics, MIT


Please note: Prior to July 2021, Blueprint Labs was named the School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative (SEII). Mentions of SEII have been edited to reflect our new name.


Selected Published Articles

Autor, David, David Figlio, Krzysztof Karbownik, Jeffrey Roth, and Melanie Wasserman. “Family Disadvantage and the Gender Gap in Behavioral and Educational Outcomes.American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 2019, 11(3): 338–381.

    • The links between academic achievement and low-socioeconomic status have been well documented, but new evidence by David Autor and coauthors shows how poverty may have a more negative effect for certain students. In their published study, Autor et al. find that family disadvantage disproportionately negatively affects the behavioral and academic outcomes of school-age boys relative to girls. This differential effect is already evident by the time of kindergarten entry. Importantly, the authors find that these differences reflect the effect of the postnatal family environment on child development. This effect is largely distinct from (or in addition to) the impact of other factors such as schools and neighborhoods.

Selected Working Papers

Abdulkadiroglu, Atila, Joshua D. Angrist, Yusuke Narita, and Parag A. Pathak. “Breaking Ties: Regression Discontinuity Design Meets Market Design. Blueprint Labs Discussion Paper #2018.01.

    • Most school districts make information about school quality publicly available, and some assign A-F letter grades to schools. But do these ratings accurately convey school quality? Josh Angrist, Parag Pathak, and co-authors use a novel econometric method to examine this question in New York City. They find that attending one of NYC’s formerly rated “Grade A” schools modestly boosts SAT math scores and may slightly increase high school graduation, but the effects are smaller than conventional estimates. Motivated by the ongoing debate over screened school admissions policies, the authors also compare attendance effects at Grade A schools that screen students and Grade A schools that admit students using lotteries. These estimates show no evidence of a screened school advantage.

Setren, Elizabeth, Kyle Greenberg, Oliver Moore, and Michael Yankovich. “Effects of the Flipped Classroom: Evidence from a Randomized Trial. Blueprint Labs Discussion Paper #2019.07.

    • Does the flipped classroom model lead to better learning outcomes? The results don’t look promising. In a new working paper, Blueprint Labs affiliate Elizabeth Setren and her co-authors examine the effects of the classroom technique in a randomized control trial at West Point. Even though the flipped model temporarily increased math scores for some students, it exacerbated the achievement gap; results were driven by white, male, and higher-achieving students. The score increases faded over time, but the achievement gap remained.
    • Press coverage: Education Week

Angrist, Josh, Parag Pathak, and Román Andrés Zárate. “Choice and Consequence: Assessing Mismatch at Chicago Exam Schools. Blueprint Labs Discussion Paper #2019.08.

    • Building on existing exam school research, Joshua Angrist, Parag Pathak, and Román Andrés Zarate examine the impact of Chicago Public School’s affirmative action plan for its ten selective enrollment high schools. The affirmative action plan lowers admissions cutoffs for students from lower-income neighborhoods. The researchers find that students who benefit from this plan experience a decrease in ACT math scores. Upon closer examination, this decrease is explained by the diversion of students away from Noble charter schools, where they would have done well.
    • Press coverage: The 74million

Honors and Awards

Joshua Angrist

MIT MacVicar Faculty Fellowship

Anyone who has attended Josh’s lectures, read his textbooks, or viewed his online course knows that he thinks very carefully and cares deeply about teaching. This year, Josh was awarded the MIT MacVicar Fellowship for his outstanding contributions to undergraduate education, including exceptional teaching and mentoring. Well done, Master Joshway!

David Autor

Andrew Carnegie Fellowship

The Carnegie Corporation of New York awarded David Autor one of its 32 annual fellowships in 2019. During his year as a Carnegie fellow, Autor will be working on a project he calls “Depopulism: How the Inversion of the Rural-Urban Age Gradient Shapes the Diverging Economic and Political Geography of the U.S. and other Industrialized Countries.”

Parag Pathak

10 Scientists to Watch, Science News

Each year, Science News publishes a list of ten scientists to watch, spotlighting those “who are persistent enough to make headway on science’s big questions.” In its description of Parag’s accomplishments, the journal highlighted his work on redesigning school choice systems and measuring school quality.

Outreach and Events

Blueprint launched a new fellowship program for school professionals in 2019. The MIT School Access and Quality Fellowship is a one-year program for education leaders implementing or expanding unified enrollment practices. The program was created by Blueprint and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation with the goal of building sustainable unified enrollment systems across the country. Fellows will connect with a national network of peers, reflect on their practices, and study cutting-edge research.

Blueprint and the MIT Integrated Learning Initiative (MITili) hosted the second annual MIT School Access and Quality Summit on November 11, 2019. The conference is a unique opportunity for researchers and K-12 decision-makers to learn from one another. The first day focused on how to measure and improve school performance and featured a keynote session by Former Newark Superintendent and State Commissioner of Education Christopher Cerf.

Teaching and Learning

New Online Course

Blueprint Director Joshua Angrist released his first online course through Marginal Revolution University. “Mastering Econometrics” delivers short lessons on econometric research techniques in fun and accessible format. The class is free and available to the public.

AEA Distinguished Lecture

Blueprint Labs Co-director David Autor delivered the prestigious AEA Distinguished Lecture at the American Economic Association annual meeting in January. In the hour-long talk, titled “Work of the Past, Work of the Future,” David explains how higher education, the demand for skills, and geography impact earnings and labor market trends.

What’s next in 2020?

We look forward to sharing results from our long-term study of a post-secondary scholarship program and of school choice systems, such as those in New York City. The team will embark on several new studies. In New York City, two districts have piloted integration initiatives. Blueprint Labs researchers will examine the effect of these efforts on school diversity and academic outcomes. Blueprint will also partner with the Walton Family Foundation and GreatSchools to understand the impact of school rating systems on students and families.

Blueprint will also continue to build and strengthen relationships with education leaders in the coming year through events and outreach. We will host the third annual MIT School Access and Quality Summit and welcome the second cohort of School Access and Quality Fellows. Together, we can translate research into educational impact.