As witnessed during this year’s Arab Spring, democracy doesn’t always emerge smoothly. This column examines the long march toward political freedom since 1800. It argues that while both income and education affect democracy, the rise in primary education has been the main driver of democratisation over 1870-2000.
Fabrice Murtin, Romain Wacziarg, Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Ralf R Meisenzahl, Joel Mokyr, Monday, June 13, 2011
The industrial revolution is, for many, the start of modern economic growth. But what started the industrial revolution? The consensus view is that scarce labour stimulated labour-saving inventions and induced innovation. This column begs to differ. It argues that it was the technical competence of the British mechanical elite that allowed great ideas to turn into economic realities.
Piergiuseppe Fortunato, Ugo Panizza, Saturday, June 4, 2011
Is democracy the most efficient method to guarantee good governance? This column argues that democratic institutions work well only when the electorate is sufficiently educated.
Davin Chor, Filipe R Campante, Monday, April 25, 2011
Political drama continues to unfold in the Middle East. This column uncovers education’s role in the recent uprisings. It finds that one unforeseen effect of increased investment in education has been the creation of a generation of well-educated but frustrated political activists. It concludes that – in more ways than one – the Middle East autocrats have contributed to their own downfall.
Eleonora Patacchini, Yves Zenou, Friday, February 25, 2011
Most people agree that friends matter – not just for personal wellbeing but for achieving their goals in life. Several studies have shown this to be particularly the case in education but the detection and measure of such peer effects is often found wanting. Using detailed information on friendship networks of American high-school students, this column finds that the friends we make at age 15 to 18 have a strong and persistent effect on our lives.
Tullio Jappelli, Mario Padula, Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Previous research has suggested that low levels of financial literacy can often be blamed for poor financial decisions by individuals, with knock-on effects for the wider economy. This column adds empirical evidence based on cross-country aggregate and micro-data, showing that indeed countries with higher financial literacy also have higher saving rates and greater wealth.
Richard B. Freeman, Stephen Machin, Martina Viarengo , Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Many interpret countries' scores in international testing as grades of their national educational policies. Summarising evidence from international maths exams, this column finds that the highest-scoring countries are those with the least inequality in test scores, suggesting a “virtuous” equity-efficiency trade-off. It also finds that countries perform even better when test scores are highly correlated with the number of books in the family home.
Christian Helmers, Mark Rogers, Tuesday, December 21, 2010
There is broad agreement that research at universities has knock-on benefits for innovation and the wider economy in general. The question remains “how?”. This column presents evidence from across the UK suggesting that local university research has a positive effect on the number local small firms that patent and that this effect strengthens the better the university.
Raphael Auer, Friday, December 10, 2010
Do skill-intensive imports from rich nations reduce skill accumulation in emerging economies? This column presents new evidence from 41 emerging economies to suggest that being close to the global supply of skilled labour decreases domestic human capital. A one-standard deviation higher geographic proximity to skilled labour is associated with a 12% lower average education length of the country’s workforce. This may have profound consequences for the ability of poorer nations to catch up with richer ones.
Graziella Bertocchi, Arcangelo Dimico, Sunday, November 14, 2010
US commentators regularly lament the country’s racial and ethnic inequality. This column presents data from 1870 and 1940-2000 to argue that the divide has its roots in the slave trade and that its legacy persists today through the racial inequality in education.
Chris Herbst, Erdal Tekin, Saturday, October 9, 2010
Do subsidies for childcare succeed in getting parents to work and improving the wellbeing of the children? This column presents evidence from the US suggesting that childcare subsidies have an unintended consequence. In the short run, children from low-income families are worse off as their parents go off to work and they receive low-quality childcare.
Lant Pritchett, Martina Viarengo , Friday, August 20, 2010
In the World Cup, countries rely not on the average quality of their footballers, but on the quality of their best footballers. Could superstars also be crucial in economic competition? This column reveals that each year Mexico produces fewer than 6,000 world class mathematicians at age 15. If superstars do play any role in economic performance then this is particularly problematic, especially since the dominant policy attention is focused elsewhere.
Ofer Malamud, Cristian Pop-Eleches , Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Do policies to bridge the digital divide, such as the One Laptop per Child programme, work? This column analyses a scheme offering vouchers for home computers to low-income families in Romania. It finds that while children’s computer skills and cognitive ability increased, academic achievement fell, suggesting that such policies should not overlook how children use these computers and the role played by parents.
Douglas Almond, Janet Currie, Thursday, June 24, 2010
The long-term effects of early childhood development are of increasing interest. This column outlines a recent literature review suggesting that interventions should target pregnant women as well as young children. But while events before birth can have a lasting impact, this does not mean that later efforts are doomed to fail.
Catherine M. Haeck, Frank Verboven, Thursday, June 17, 2010
How does a university organise its hiring and promotion policy? This column presents evidence on the personnel policy of a large European university. It suggests that the university is organised as an internal labour market, and while promotion dynamics depend on research and teaching performance, persistent administrative rigidities remain.
Ludger Woessmann, Sascha O Becker, Erik Hornung, Sunday, May 9, 2010
Did education play a role in economic development during the Industrial Revolution? This column discusses new evidence from Prussia showing that formal education was critical to technology adoption in the first and second phase of the Industrial Revolution during the 19th century.
Victor Lavy, Olmo Silva , Felix Weinhardt, Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Does it matter who you went to school with? This column presents evidence from England suggesting strong peer influence among secondary school classmates. But the effects vary with gender and ability. Girls significantly benefit from more interactions with very bright peers, whereas it can impair boys – especially those with higher ability.
Oriana Bandiera, Valentino Larcinese, Imran Rasul, Monday, January 11, 2010
The effect of increasing class size in tertiary education is not well understood. This column estimates the effects of class size on students’ exam performance by comparing the same student’s performance to her own performance in courses with small and large class sizes. Going from the average class of 56 to a class size of 89 would decrease the mark by 9% of the observed variation in marks within a given student. The effect is almost four times larger for students in the top 10%.
Eric Hanushek, Ludger Woessmann, Friday, August 14, 2009
Latin Americans are relatively educated, so why has their economic growth lagged over the past four decades? This column attributes the disappointing performance to the difference between educational quantity and quality. Schooling is relevant for economic growth only insofar as it actually improves cognitive skills, and Latin American economies have lagged in terms of educational quality.
Lawrence F. Katz, Friday, May 15, 2009
Lawrence Katz of Harvard University talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his book (co-authored with Claudia Goldin), The Race between Education and Technology, a history of US economic inequality and the roles of technological change and the pace of educational advance in affecting the wage structure. The interview was recorded at the American Economic Association meetings in San Francisco in January 2009.