Assistant Professor of Public Policy Jisung Park discussed the effect of warming global temperatures on student learning in an NPR interview. Park and his colleagues analyzed data from 10 million U.S. students over 15 years to explore the relationship between climate change and student academic performance. Park found that “students who experience a hotter than average year — let’s say a year with five more school days above 90 degrees Fahrenheit — appeared to experience reduced learning.” A one-degree-Fahrenheit increase in average temperature in a given year reduces learning on average by around 1%, he said. But his research showed that the same temperature change disproportionately impacts underrepresented minorities by closer to 2% or 3%. Park added that infrastructure affects student academic performance, explaining that “the effect of heat on learning is much smaller in schools that report having adequate air conditioning.”
An article in the Hechinger Report highlighted Assistant Professor of Public Policy R. Jisung Park’s research findings on the relationship between heat and student test performance. Air pollution and heat are becoming increasing concerns as a result of climate change, and research indicates that these factors may inhibit student performance in classrooms. In a study conducted in New York City, Park found that hot testing days reduced students’ performance on Regents exams, which are required for graduation in New York, thus decreasing the probability of a student graduating from high school. He found that students are 10% more likely to fail an exam when the temperature is 90 degrees than when it’s 72 degrees. Park also co-authored a study that examined PSAT scores across the country and found that students “had lower scores if they experienced hotter school days in the years preceding the test, with extreme heat being particularly damaging.”
PBS NewsHour took an in-depth look at Assistant Professor of Public Policy R. Jisung Park’s research linking extreme heat and students’ ability to learn. Every 1-degree-Fahrenheit increase in average outdoor temperature over a school year reduces student learning by 1 percent, a team of researchers led by Park found. The team’s analysis of weather data, test scores for 10 million students, and access to air conditioning in classrooms across the country point to a “Dixie divide”: In hotter counties in Florida, Texas and other Southern states, test scores were lower than those in the North, even after controlling for factors such as family income, a county’s economic status or local pollution. “The causal effect of any given 90-degree day was much larger for lower-income students and racial minorities,” added Park, associate director of economic research for the Luskin Center for Innovation. The study puts a spotlight on the nuanced ways that developed nations will be influenced by global warming.
R. Jisung Park, assistant professor of public policy, spoke with KPCC’s “Take Two” about his research linking extreme heat with the racial education achievement gap. Students who experience more hot days during the school year perform worse on standardized exams, Park and his colleagues found. In addition, black and Hispanic students are 9 percent less likely than white students to attend schools with functioning air conditioning, they found. “We know that that can have effects on the economic opportunities that these students can have access to,” Park told “Take Two” in a segment beginning at minute 23:40. Park, associate director of economic research for the Luskin Center for Innovation, advocates for air conditioning powered by clean energy. “In the meantime,” he said, “we need to protect the most disadvantaged communities from the effects of climate change that are already coming down the pike.” Park’s research was also highlighted in USA Today and the Washington Post.
Extreme heat and a lack of air conditioning in classrooms contribute to the nation’s racial education achievement gap, according to research by R. Jisung Park, assistant professor of public policy. His study, forthcoming in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, is the first peer-reviewed paper to put dollar figures on the costs and social benefits of air conditioning in schools. Using data from more than 10 million middle- and high-school students across the United States, Park and his colleagues found that students who experience more hot days during the school year perform worse on standardized exams. Up to 40 percent of U.S. schools may not be fully air conditioned. Although black and Hispanic students overwhelmingly reside in hotter locations than white students, they are 9 percent less likely to have school air conditioning, the researchers found. In hot places such as Houston and Atlanta, each additional year of sufficient school air conditioning could boost collective future earnings by up to $2 million in any given high school of 1,000 students, the study found. Park, associate director of economic research for the Luskin Center for Innovation, advocates for air conditioning powered by clean energy that does not contribute to climate change. “We must recognize that adapting to climate change is a matter of racial and economic justice, especially in schools,” Park wrote in a USA Today op-ed. Keeping students cool could be a cost-effective way to boost climate resilience, promote learning and economic mobility, and narrow the gap between our nation’s haves and have-nots.”
Jisung Park, assistant professor of public policy and environmental health sciences, spoke with Marketplace about the impact of climate change on economic productivity. The International Labor Organization predicts that heat stress linked to global warming could drain more than $2 trillion from the world’s gross domestic product. In hot weather, people work more slowly, need more breaks and make errors, studies have found. “If you work outdoors, it’s much harder to protect yourself from either the productivity or the health impacts from extreme heat,” said Park, who has conducted research showing that student test scores decline in hot weather. The effect of rising global temperatures on cognitive development is particularly acute in low-income areas where air conditioning is not available, Park has found.
Jisung Park, assistant professor of public policy and environmental health sciences, was interviewed by the Dutch daily newspaper NRC Handelsblad about his research on the effects of heat on learning and test scores for students in the United States. Asked about the effect of climate change on productivity, Park said, “In a modern economy, schools are the places where the wealth of a nation is created. That is where the knowledge and the skill comes from.” Park suggested that countries with moderate climates, like the Netherlands, adopt heat policies as temperatures climb worldwide. “I think that is why we should be just as concerned about the environment in which a student learns as the environment in which a worker works.”
By Colleen Callahan
Record-breaking heat and scorching summer wildfires are signs of a hotter California. As part of efforts to further knowledge and action on climate change, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI) is part of two winning partnership grants ─ totaling more than $4 million ─ awarded by California’s Strategic Growth Council.
The Council’s new and competitive Climate Change Research Program is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that is putting billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment. Both grants will benefit disadvantaged communities in particular.
Measuring the Impacts of Climate Change on Vulnerable Communities to Design and Target Protective Policies
A nearly $1.5-million grant led by LCI involves multiple studies of heat-related climate impacts, as well as factors that make populations and communities vulnerable, plus opportunities to build resilience. Climate change could exacerbate existing inequities, and LCI will develop tools to help government agencies target responses and empower communities.
“The goal is to increase the climate resilience of California’s vulnerable communities in the face of rapidly increasing extreme heat events,” said JR DeShazo, the grant’s principal investigator and LCI director.
The researchers include R. Jisung Park, an LCI scholar and an assistant professor of public policy and environmental health sciences at UCLA Luskin, who will assess climate change impacts on low-income workers. Gregory Pierce, associate director of research at LCI, will assess the climate risk of vulnerable built environments — including affordable housing — to better inform protective policies.
Collaborations with government agencies, nonprofit organizations and community leaders will be integral to the work. For example, civic partners will oversee the development of geographic tools to identify areas disproportionately affected by heat-related climate change and vulnerability factors. Stakeholders will also be able to identify policies, funding and other opportunities to increase resilience in vulnerable areas and among vulnerable populations such as low-income workers and residents.
The analysis of resilience opportunities will also be collaborative. A partnership with the Liberty Hill Foundation and community-based organizations will test a coordinated outreach pilot called Opportunity Communities to promote clean and affordable energy, transportation and associated financial assistance for low-income households. Researchers will assess the effectiveness of this strategy to build financial and health resilience to climate change impacts.
Climate Smart Communities Consortium
A partnership grant led by UC Davis and the UC Institute of Transportation Studies will also involve LCI. This $2.6-million grant to a multifaceted group of researchers from seven academic institutions will tackle the challenge of transportation-related environmental impacts, which fall disproportionately on low-income communities of color. Researchers will seek solutions that reduce emissions and improve the mobility and quality of life for California’s most vulnerable communities.
LCI will collaboratively study interrelated areas of innovative mobility, electrification and freight movement, using equity and policy engagement lenses as crosscutting themes. Research will center on regional case study initiatives and statewide initiatives to demonstrate findings.
The Strategic Growth Council brings together multiple agencies and departments to support sustainable communities emphasizing strong economies, social equity and environmental stewardship. For updates during implementation of the latest grants, see LCI’s climate action program at innovation.luskin.ucla.edu/climate.
A study by R. Jisung Park, assistant professor of public policy, is cited in the online story that accompanies a recent NPR “Morning Edition” piece about the impact of hot weather on brain function. Compared with a 72-degree day, “taking an exam on a 90◦F day leads to a 10.9 percent lower likelihood of passing a particular subject (e.g. Algebra), which in turn affects probability of graduation,” according to Park. The same quote, plus additional information from the study, is included in a data-driven story by the Washington Post headlined, “Heat Makes You Dumb, in Four Charts.”
By Mary Braswell
An expansive study tracking 10 million American students over 13 years confirms what children, parents and teachers already suspected: When classrooms grow uncomfortably warm, students struggle to learn.
Low-income and minority students are particularly affected, and the problem stands to worsen as global temperatures rise, according to the research co-authored by UCLA Luskin assistant professor of public policy Jisung Park.
In some schools, a remedy is within reach. The negative effects of hotter days are almost entirely offset in classrooms equipped with air-conditioning, the researchers found.
Park said the study was launched to understand the effects of climate on educational performance. “Specifically, we were interested in whether a hotter-than-average schoolyear can actually reduce the rate of learning,” he said.
The researchers found that, without air conditioning, each 1 degree Fahrenheit increase in schoolyear temperature reduces the amount learned that year by 1 percent. The decline in learning was detected when outdoor temperatures exceeded 75 degrees “but becomes really problematic at 85, 90 and above,” Park said.
“I think it’s worth highlighting the fact that racial minorities and low-income students seem to be affected much more negatively,” Park said. “So with the same heat shock — in the same year with 10 more hot days — black or Hispanic students on average would experience roughly three or four times the negative impact than a white student would.
“A lot of that seems to be because of different rates of air conditioning, both at school and at home.”
Park points out that “the United States is still one of the most highly air conditioned countries in the world.” In countries like India and Bangladesh, where both temperatures and poverty levels are high, the effects of heat on cognitive development are likely to be more profound, he said.
The study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, assessed test scores from 10 million high school students who took the PSAT exam multiple times, between 2001 and 2014. An individual test-taker’s scores dipped in years when higher temperatures were recorded, the research found.
“An important distinction to make here is, in this paper, we’re not actually studying how temperature during an exam affects your performance,” Park said. “You could have someone who’s very well-educated have a bad test day. That’s very different from someone who, because they weren’t able to focus enough times over an extended period, is actually not very well educated. We wanted to test that latter hypothesis.”
He noted that the research was motivated, in part, by a desire to make our society more resilient to climate change. The study forecasts the impact of hot temperatures on student learning over the next three decades. One model assumes no changes in school infrastructure, and another assumes that the rate of air conditioning is increased.
“There’s a very big difference,” Park said.
But he added that the research should not be interpreted as a mandate for schools to install air conditioning.
“As always, we need to weigh the costs and benefits,” he said. “The costs are going to vary tremendously, and maybe it still doesn’t make sense for a school up in northeast Maine to revamp their hundred-year-old building at a $20-million cost.”
Park holds a joint appointment with the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, where he is an assistant professor of environmental health sciences. As a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and National Science Foundation fellow at Harvard University, he pursued research in environmental and labor economics, specializing in the impact of climate change on human capital.
Park’s latest study, “Heat and Learning,” was co-authored by Joshua Goodman, associate professor at Harvard University; Michael Hurwitz, senior director at the College Board, which administers SAT and PSAT exams; and Jonathan Smith, assistant professor at Georgia State University.