US university science: The shopping mall model

Paula Stephan, 20 March 2014

US universities resemble high-end shopping malls. They use nice buildings and good reputations to attract good students and good faculty. To pay for this, external funding – once viewed as a luxury – is a necessary condition for tenure and promotion. This column argues that this model emerged at the initiative of universities not the federal government. Today’s stress is the harvest of what universities and faculty sowed in the 1950s and the 1960s.

Education, language and identity

Irma Clots-Figueras, Paolo Masella, 3 March 2014

Language is not only a tool of communication but also of empowerment and cultural identity. This column presents evidence that mandatory instruction in Catalan strengthened perceptions of regional identity and boosted political support for Catalanist parties. This evidence of the efficacy of multiculturalist policy should instruct policymakers in ethnically diverse societies.

Do we need highly cited departmental chairs?

Amanda Goodall, John McDowell, Larry Singell, 31 January 2014

Much of human knowledge is produced in the world’s university departments, yet little is known about how these hundreds of thousands of departments are best organised and led. This column explores the association between the personal research output of a department head and the department’s subsequent performance. Results suggest that if a department wants to improve its reputation in the world, then the chair should be a highly cited researcher.

Sleeping together: Network effects and sleep duration

Xiaodong Liu, Eleonora Patacchini, Edoardo Rainone, 28 January 2014

Sleep is a key determinant of educational attainment among young adults, and carries with it longstanding health implications. This column provides evidence of network effects in adolescent sleeping decisions using a novel econometric approach. Young adults respond to the sleeping behaviour of their peer group, holding constant other observables. This compounding effect suggests a group approach to solving behavioural problems associated with sleep deprivation.

China’s one-child policy and saving puzzle

Taha Choukhmane, Nicolas Coeurdacier , Keyu Jin, 22 January 2014

Since China is growing rapidly, one might expect Chinese households to borrow against their future income. In fact, Chinese households save 30.5% of their income – compared to about 5% in OECD countries. This column discusses recent research linking the Chinese saving puzzle to China’s one-child policy. The savings rate of households with twins is about 6–7 percentage points lower than that of households with an only child. Demographic factors can explain an estimated 35–45% of the 20 percentage-point rise in China’s household saving rate between 1983 and 2011.

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