Education

Knowledge elites, enlightenment, and industrialisation

Nico Voigtländer, Mara Squicciarini, 13 July 2014

Although studies of contemporary economies find robust associations between human capital and growth, past research has found no link between worker skills and the onset of industrialisation. This column resolves the puzzle by focusing on the upper tail of the skill distribution, which is strongly associated with industrial development in 18th-century France.

How history can contribute to better economic education

Coen Teulings, 11 July 2014

The financial crisis and the Great Recession have led to calls for more economic history in economic education. This column argues for a much broader use of history in economics courses, as a device for teaching both the logic and the empirical relevance of economics. A proposed curriculum would include the rise of agriculture, urbanisation, war, the rule of law, and demography.

Trade, regional development, and institutions: Lessons from Brazil

André Carlos Martínez, Aldo Musacchio, Martina Viarengo, 9 July 2014

Institutions are known to play a powerful and enduring role in countries’ divergent levels of economic development. This column presents evidence that institutions matter for within-country inequality, too. In Brazil, changes in export prices and export tax revenues led to an increase in education spending in states that experienced commodity booms, which increased the number of schools and improved educational outcomes such as literacy rates. However, the effect was limited in states where slavery was predominant in colonial times.

The type of peer matters

Kirk Doran, George J. Borjas, 13 June 2014

Research so far has been inconclusive about the effect of losing and gaining productive peers on one’s own output. This column defines peers in three distinct ways and checks which types of peers matter, focusing on mathematicians shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Losing intellectual competitors results in an increase in one’s output, whereas losing collaborators reduces it. Competition for resources and positive spillovers from high-quality peers are simultaneously at force, explaining the divergent findings in the peer effects literature.

Wage compression and falling Latin American inequality

Eduardo Levy Yeyati, Samuel Pienknagura, 10 June 2014

Latin America’s inequality has fallen, driven by a reduction in the educational wage premium. This column discusses potential driving forces behind this phenomenon and argues that while this is a positive outcome, it may reflect a deeper malaise. A preliminary evaluation suggests that supply changes are more important than de-industrialisation. But lacklustre PISA scores support a more dismal hypothesis. The premium decrease may mirror a decline in education quality.

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