Publication: Detrimental effects of an economic crisis on student cognitive achievement – A natural experiment from Palestine
Khaled Bisharat, Alexander Christ and Stephan Kröner published an article on “Detrimental effects of an economic crisis on student cognitive achievement – A natural experiment from Palestine” in Intelligence (Impact Factor: 2.609).
In this study, we investigated the differential effect of regional economic prosperity on mean student cognitive achievement by analysing data from a “natural experiment” in Palestine. Its main regions, Gaza and the West Bank, inhabited by a population sharing history, culture and gene pool, were only recently separated, yet distinctively affected by geopolitical events. The “experimental group”, living in Gaza, suffered from an enduring politico-economic crisis treatment, while the “control group”, inhabitants of the West Bank, was exposed to a much shorter and milder crisis. As a manipulation check, we used economic data reported by Etkes and Zimring (2015), who uncovered a severe and lasting decrease in household welfare and labour productivity in Gaza. As dependent variables, we used achievement scores of TIMSS maths and science students, which displayed only negligible pro-West Bank, pre-crisis differences (maths: Cohen’s d = −0.04; t = −0.56; science: d = 0.11; t = 1.48). This margin grew during the crisis (maths: d = 0.17; t = 2.65; science: d = 0.26; t = 4.25) and even more so in the post-crisis phase (maths: d = 0.38; t = 5.09; science: d = 0.46; t = 6.76).
Our results corroborate correlational evidence for economic effects on cognitive achievement (cf. Hunt, 2012). Relying on a natural experiment, we were able to rule out genetic effects and highlight the impact of the environment on students’ academic achievements. Limitations of the design and implications for further studies on regional differences in cognitive achievement are discussed.