Rasmus Landersø, James Heckman, 12 September 2016

The Scandinavian model of social welfare is often contrasted favourably with the US model in terms of promoting social mobility across generations. This column investigates the accuracy of these claims, focusing on the case of Denmark. Denmark invests heavily in child development, but then undoes the beneficial effects by providing weak labour market incentives for its children to attend school compared to the US. This helps explain why the influence of family background on educational attainment is similar in the two countries.

Pelin Akyol, James Key, Kala Krishna, 24 August 2016

Guessing answers can undermine the effectiveness of multiple choice exams. Negative marking, in which incorrect answers are penalised, can limit guessing, but may bias the test against risk-averse test takers. Using Turkish university admission exam data, this column explores whether negative marking biases exams, particularly against women, who tend to be more risk averse. Differences in risk aversion appear to have a limited impact, especially for good students. 

Sandra Black, Amy Filipek, Jason Furman, Laura Giuliano, Ayushi Narayan, 04 August 2016

Student debt has been rapidly rising in the US over the last 20 years. This column explores how this rise is affecting borrowers and the economy today. With the college earnings premium near historical levels, student loans facilitate excellent investments on average, and most borrowers are paying down their debt with little risk to the overall economy. However, borrowers who attend low quality schools or fail to complete a degree face real challenges with repayment. 

Alena Bičáková, Štěpán Jurajda, 26 July 2016

Positive assortative matching between college graduates has been well documented in marriage markets. Using European survey data, this column explores whether graduates form couples within their field of study. A third of married or cohabiting graduate couples both studied within the same field. These results are driven in part by assortative matching, and there are notable differences across fields of study as well as across countries.

Stephen Billings , David Deming, Stephen Ross, 11 July 2016

The propensity for youths to commit crime has long been associated with where they live. This column looks at how the school they attend can shape this relationship. Exploiting changes to school catchment areas in a US school district, it shows that concentrations of students with similar characteristics and from similar neighbourhoods at the same school increase arrest rates, if these potential peers live close to each other. Moreover, youths who live near each other and are in the same school and grade are more likely to commit crimes together. Policies to decrease segregation in schools could thus be effective in reducing crime.

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