The exact causes of (and lessons from) the Great Compression – the decline in US income inequality in the mid-20th century – remain unclear. This column uses census data and changes in law to examine the effect of education across the complete distribution of income. Policies that increased attendance for young children in the late 19th and early 20th centuries appear to have had long-term implications for earnings and inequality, with returns to schooling highest among those at the lower end of the income distribution.
Karen Clay, Jeff Lingwall, Melvin Stephens, 22 April 2017
Ufuk Akcigit, John Grigsby, Tom Nicholas, 02 February 2017
A pressing issue facing policymakers around the globe today is how to generate long-term economic growth through technological innovation. Using a new dataset that matches 19th and 20th century patent records with census data, this column attempts to shed some light on the ‘golden age’ of US innovation. Population density and financial development are found to be important determinants of state innovativeness, while education appears to be the critical input at the individual level. These findings have important implications for innovation policy today.
Sari Pekkala Kerr, William Kerr, Çağlar Özden, Christopher Parsons, 31 January 2017
The distribution of talent and human capital is highly skewed across the world. As high-income countries engage in a global race for talent, the resulting migration of high-skilled workers across countries tilts the deck even further. This column draws upon newly available data to outline the patterns and implications of global talent mobility. Key results include recent dramatic increases in high-skilled migration flows, particularly in certain occupations, in certain countries, among those with higher skill levels, and from a wider range of origins.
Axel Dreher, Shu Yu, 25 November 2016
The belief that educating future leaders of other countries helps spread the values of the country of study has inspired many foreign-education programmes. This column uses data on the education and UN voting patterns of 831 world leaders to show that foreign-educated leaders tend to be less friendly with former hosts, but more friendly with countries that share the host’s culture and politics. This appears to reflect a tension between ‘affinity’ with former hosts and ‘allegiance’ to domestic voters.
Philip Oreopoulos, Uros Petronijevic, 13 November 2016
Questions over the value of a university education are underscored by negative student experiences. Personalised coaching is a promising, but costly, tool to improve student experiences and performance. This column presents the results from an experiment comparing coaching with lower cost ‘nudge’ interventions. While coaching led to a significant increase in average course grades, online and text message interventions had no effect. The benefits of coaching appear to derive from the trust-based nature of relationships and personalised attention.
Dale Jorgenson, Mun S. Ho, Jon Samuels, 01 November 2016
There has been speculation that the low employment rates for younger and less-educated workers in the US reflect a ‘new normal’. This column uses detailed new US data to project output, productivity, and employment rates over the next decade. The results indicate that US economic growth will continue to recover from the Great Recession through the resumption of growth in productivity and labour input. The recovery of employment rates for less-educated and younger workers will make an important contribution to future economic growth.
Michele Pellizzari, Giacomo De Giorgi, 16 September 2016
The more we rely on each other the less effort we put in. In this video, Giacomo de Giorgi and Michele Pellizzari discuss the differences in groups' performances. This video was recorded at the Royal Economic Society annual conference at the University of Manchester in spring 2015.
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.
Rajesh Ramachandran, 11 July 2016
In this video, Rajesh Ramachandran discusses the effects of teaching in a colonial language in sub-Saharan countries. The research shows that teaching in a colonial language actually worsens educational attainments. This video was recorded during a UNU-WIDER conference on “Human capital and growth” held in June 2016.
Kehinde Ajayi, 08 July 2016
In this video, Kehinde Ajayi discusses the ways in which schools affect students’ performance. Allowing students to make informed choices about which school to attend is key to improving educational attainment. This video was recorded during a UNU-WIDER conference on “Human capital and growth” held in June 2016.
James Harrigan, Ariell Reshef, Farid Toubal, 06 July 2016
Job polarisation has been documented in many large developed economies over the past two decades. This column shows how the growth of ICT has contributed to these trends. Using French firm-level data, it documents the declining share of middle-wage jobs, and identifies an increase in the share of technology-related jobs as an important contributing factor. Firms with more ‘techies’ are also found to grow faster than less techie-intensive firms.
Sara Calligaris, Massimo Del Gatto, Fadi Hassan, Gianmarco Ottaviano, Fabiano Schivardi, 28 June 2016
Many advanced economies have experienced a productivity slowdown in recent years. Italy, however, has been experiencing such a slowdown since the mid-1990s. This column provides a detailed analysis of Italy’s patterns of misallocation over this period. Firms in the Northern regions, as well as large firms, have experienced the sharpest increase in resource misallocation. To tackle the resulting productivity slowdown, reforms need to address unemployment benefits and higher education, as well as encouraging investment in intangible assets.
Dalia Marin, 23 June 2016
Income inequality is less severe in Germany than in the US. Part of this is due to CEO pay in the US growing faster than in Germany. This column offers some novel explanations for these observations. From the mid-1990s, Germany began offshoring managerial tasks to Eastern Europe, reducing demand for German managers. In addition Germany offshored skill-intensive jobs to Eastern Europe, reducing the skill premium.
David Autor, David Figlio, Krzysztof Karbownik, Jeffrey Roth, Melanie Wasserman, 22 June 2016
Around the world, girls tend to surpass boys in educational achievement. Early childhood inputs have been shown to be particularly important for the formation of children’s skills and behavioural patterns. Using US data, this column shows that in higher-quality schools the gender gap in terms of both skills and behaviour shrinks, with essentially no boy-girl disparity in outcomes at the very best schools. Better schools are thus an effective policy lever for reducing gender disparities in elementary and middle school outcomes.
Marianne Bertrand, Patricia Cortes, Claudia Olivetti, Jessica Pan, 21 June 2016
Marriage rates of skilled and unskilled women have evolved quite differently across countries since 1995. The rate is lower overall for skilled women but the gap is narrowing, and even reversing, in some countries. This column uses evidence from 23 countries between 1995 and 2010 to consider how skilled women’s labour market opportunities impact their marriage prospects in different societies. Generally, more conservative societies have lower marriage rates for skilled women relative to unskilled women, with the effects of an increase in skilled women’s wages depending on the degree of conservatism.
Giorgio Brunello, Guglielmo Weber, Christoph Weiss, 15 June 2016
Early life conditions can have long-lasting effects on individual development and labour market success. Using a sequence of reforms that raised the minimum school-leaving age in Europe, this column investigates how access to books at home influences educational and labour market outcomes. The returns to an additional year of education for individuals brought up in households with few books are much lower than for the luckier ones who had more than a shelf of books at home.
Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln, Paolo Masella, 05 June 2016
There are strong links between the nature of education in a country and its political institutions, and an individual’s education can impact their lifetime labour market choices. This column examines how being educated under a socialist regime impacts individuals in a free labour market. Using data on students from East and West Germany in the 1970s, it finds that a socialist regime education led to a larger spread in labour market outcomes – more of these individuals were not employed, but conditional on being employed, had higher wages and a higher probability of achieving a professional status in the East.
Giovanni Mastrobuoni, 20 May 2016
Education usually has a protective effect – people with higher levels of education are less likely to start criminal activities. In this video, Giovanni Mastrobuoni discusses the benefits of education on members of the Italian-American Mafia. Although the nature of the business is illegal, those involved in business-related crimes (loan sharking, drug dealing) are those who gain the most from an extra year in school. This video was recorded in March 2016 during the Royal Economic Society’s Annual Conference held at the University of Sussex.
Yuxin Yao, Asako Ohinata, Jan van Ours, 09 May 2016
Language skills play an important role in labour market performance. This column uses evidence from the Netherlands to assess whether speaking a dialect affects a child’s educational performance. It finds that speaking Dutch dialects affects the academic performance of some young children. While it has a modestly negative effect on boys' language test scores, there is no effect on language tests for girls. Dialect-speaking does not affect scores in maths tests. The share of dialect-speaking peers in the classroom does not affect the test scores of either Dutch-speaking children or dialect-speaking children.
Jeremiah Dittmar, Ralf R Meisenzahl, 26 April 2016
Throughout history, most states have functioned as kleptocracies and not as providers of public goods. This column analyses the diffusion of legal institutions that established Europe’s first large-scale experiments in mass public education. These institutions originated in Germany during the Protestant Reformation due to popular political mobilisation, but only in around half of Protestant cities. Cities that formalised these institutions grew faster over the next 200 years, both by attracting and by producing more highly skilled residents.