Maithreyi Gopalan

Assistant Professor of Education and Public Policy, Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus

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About Maithreyi

Gopalan has three key strands of research: (1) investigation of causes and consequences of racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in education and health, broadly defined; (2) application of behavioral insights to inform policy design and analysis aimed at mitigating disparities in schools and colleges; and (3) research that examines the interconnectedness of health and educational policies from a life-course perspective. In all, she is interested in conducting interdisciplinary, policy-relevant research examining health and educational equity using experimental and quasi-experimental research methods.

In the News

Research discussed by Tony Pals & Marla Koenigsknecht, in "Study Finds That State-Mandated Civics Test Policy Does Not Improve Youth Voter Turnout," American Educational Research Association, September 13, 2023.
Quoted by Coleen Flaherty in "Writing to Belong," Inside Higher Ed, July 20, 2022.
Quoted by Madeline St. Amour in "How Community Collleges Are Serviing the Most Vulnerable," Inside Higher Ed, September 10, 2020.
Quoted by Natalie Schwartz in "Minority and First-Gen Students Feel Greater Belonging at 2-Year Colleges, Study Finds," Higher Ed Dive, January 2, 2020.
Quoted by Sarah D. Sparks in "National Study Bolsters Case for Teaching ‘Growth Mindset’," Education Week, August 7, 2019.


"The Stubborn Unresponsiveness of Youth Voter Turnout to Civic Education: Quasi-Experimental Evidence From State-Mandated Civics Tests" (with Jilli Jung). Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (2023).

Estimates the impact of a recent, state-mandated civics test policy—the Civics Education Initiative (CEI)—on youth voter turnout, and provides evidence regarding the lack of efficacy of civics test policies when it comes to youth voter participation. Findings show that CEI does not significantly affect youth voter turnout.

"College Students’ Sense of Belonging and Mental Health Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic" (with Ashley Linden-Carmichael and Stephanie Lanza). Journal of Adolescent Health 70, no. 2 (2021): 228-233.

Discusses despite reporting high levels of belonging pre- and post-COVID, consistent with past research, underrepresented racial/ethnic minority/first-generation students reported relatively lower sense of belonging compared to peers. Mentions feelings of belonging buffered depressive symptoms and to a lesser extent anxiety amidst COVID among all students.

"Impacts of Publicly Funded Health Insurance for Adults on Children’s Academic Achievement," (with Lindsey Rose Bullinger and Caitlin Lombardi), Annenberg Brown University, April 28, 2021.

Examines whether the ACA’s Medicaid expansions influenced child development and family functioning in low-income households. Finds that the ACA Medicaid expansions improved children’s reading test scores by approximately 2 percent (0.04 SD).

"A Customized Belonging Intervention Improves Retention of Socially Disadvantaged Students at a Broad-Access University" (with Mary C. Murphy, Evelyn R. Carter, Katherine T. U. Emerson, Bette L. Bottoms, and Gregory M. Walton). Science Advances 6, no. 29 (2020).

Evaluates a randomized intervention aimed at bolstering first-year students’ sense of belonging at a broad-access university (N = 1,063). Increases the likelihood that racial-ethnic minority and first-generation students maintained continuous enrollment over the next two academic years relative to multiple control groups.

"Applying Behavioral Insights in Policy Analysis: Recent Trends in the United States" (with Maureen A. Pirog). Public Policy Yearbook 45, no. 1 (2017): 82-114.

Focuses on how behavioral insights used by governments at all levels can improve the delivery of governmental services and improve compliance and use of government services by the public. Reviews recent trends in policy initiatives that specifically incorporate behavioral insights in the US and outline a framework for integrating behavioral insights into policy design and analysis.

"Understanding the Racial Discipline Gap in Schools" (with Ashlyn Aiko Nelson). Aera Open (2019).

Explores the discipline gap between Black and White students and between Hispanic and White students using a statewide student-level panel data set on Indiana public school students attending prekindergarten through 12th grade from 2008–2009 through 2013–2014. Demonstrates that the Black-White disciplinary gaps, defined in a variety of ways and robust to a series of specification tests, emerge as early as in prekindergarten and widen.

"Effects of Parental Public Health Insurance Eligibility on Parent and Child Health Outcomes" (with Lindsey Rose Bullinger and Caitlin McPherranLombardi). Economics & Human Biology 44 (2022).

Finds that parents' self-reported health status improved significantly post-expansion in states that expanded Medicaid through the ACA by 4 percentage points (p < 0.05), a 4.7% improvement. Discovers no significant changes in children's use of routine doctor visits or parents' assessment of their children's health status. Observes modest decreases in children's body mass index (BMI) of about 2%.