Like a Flowing Spring? The Effect of the Maayan (Wellspring) Jewish Religious Education Network’s Establishment in the Short and Long Terms

13/05/2021 |  Zussman Noam, Lipiner Idan
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Elementary schools of the Maayan (Wellspring) Jewish Religious Education network, founded by the Shas movement, were established at the end of the 1980s and expanded rapidly. Today, there are about 50,000 students in those institutions – approximately 5 percent of first grade students in the Jewish education system in Israel. This research examines, for the first time, the impact of the schools’ founding on a range of outcomes of elementary school students from North African origins, who lived in the periphery in the 1990s, and about 6 percent of whom studied in the Maayan network.

To overcome the selectivity in parents’ choosing the school system for their children, the difference-in-differences method was used, utilizing the gradual opening of these schools, as well as multivariate estimations based on selection on observables. In both methods, a range of background characteristics were controlled for and estimations were executed among siblings.

The results of the selection on observables estimations on siblings indicate that among boys who studied in first grade in the Maayan network, compared with boys with similar characteristics who studied in other Jewish education systems all together, academic achievements were relatively low: the dropout rate between 10th grade and 12th grade was about 10 percentage points higher, the share of those taking the Bagrut matriculation tests was 24 percentage points lower, the percentage of those receiving a Bagrut matriculation diploma was 15 percentage points lower, and overall by age 29 they had a year less of study (excluding Yeshiva religious studies institutions). The employment rate among men who graduated from Maayan was 14 percentage points lower and the gross annual wage of the workers was lower by about a fifth. They married at younger ages but (by age 29) had 0.2 fewer children. The percentage of their eldest children who studied in an ultra-Orthodox kindergarten was not different from that of graduates of the other Jewish education systems together.

Sisters who studied in first grade in the Maayan network had about 6 percentage points more of a chance of learning in ultra-Orthodox schools in 10th grade than girls with similar characteristics, and their scholastic attainments were relatively good: about 20 percentage points more took the Bagrut matriculation tests (and they succeeded in the tests by a similar extent), they acquired more post-secondary education – professional and academic – and overall they had 1.4 more years of education. The employment rate among women who graduated from Maayan was similar to that of other women, and their gross annual wage was about a third higher. Their marriage and fertility patterns were similar to those of female graduates of the other Jewish education systems together, as well as the percentage of their children in ultra-Orthodox kindergartens.

In the difference-in-differences method – which examines the differences between students who had a Maayan elementary school in their residential locality and the others (as opposed to the results above, which refer to actual studies in the Maayan network) – no effect of Maayan availability was found for most outcome variables. Nonetheless, the probability of female students taking Bagrut matriculation exams increased by 4 percentage points.

There may have been changes in the operation of Maayan network since the early 2000s, which could have affected their graduates’ outcomes.