Leandro de la Escosura, 02 June 2018

Rising trends in GDP per capita are often interpreted as reflecting rising levels of general wellbeing. But GDP per capita is at best a crude proxy for wellbeing, neglecting important qualitative dimensions. This column explores the long-term trends in global wellbeing inequality using a new dataset. Inequality indices reflecting various aspects of wellbeing are shown to have been declining since WWI, unlike real GDP per capita inequality. 

Christian Dustmann, Hyejin Ku, Do Won Kwak, 28 September 2017

Some studies have shown that pupils from single-sex schools outperform their counterparts at mixed-gender schools. This column attempts to disentangle the causal effects by exploiting a government policy in South Korea that led to some single-sex schools converting to co-ed one grade at a time. Academic performance fell for boys when their schools became co-ed even if their class remained single-sex, but performance only fell among girls whose classes became mixed. These results suggest different mechanisms for the effects of mixed-gender schools on boys’ and girls’ academic performance.

Scott Carrell, Mark Hoekstra, Elira Kuka, 25 April 2016

Bad behaviour by peers is well-known to worsen educational outcomes in the short run. This column investigates the long-run effects of peers from families marked by domestic violence. Individual-level US data linking middle and high school test scores, college enrolment, and earnings at ages 24–28 show that students exposed to more disruptive peers experience worse adult outcomes. Policies that mitigate exposure to disruptive peers could pay high dividends.

Melissa Kearney, Phillip Levine, 16 July 2015

Early childhood education has important effects on the academic readiness and ultimate life chances of children. This column examines how the introduction of the educational television show Sesame Street in the US affected primary school outcomes for disadvantaged children. Those from counties that had better access to the broadcast had superior educational outcomes through their early school years. These effects were particularly pronounced for black, non-Hispanic children, and those living in economically disadvantaged areas. The extremely low cost per child of such interventions make them ideal for addressing educational inequality in childhood.

Manudeep Bhuller, Magne Mogstad, Kjell G. Salvanes, 22 September 2014

The impact of education on earnings over the life cycle is a critical factor for policy decisions ranging from education to taxation and pensions. This column exploits a unique Norwegian population panel data set to estimate an internal rate of return to additional schooling of about 10%. The standard Mincer-regression approach is also shown to substantially underestimate schooling’s rate of return.

Fabrice Murtin, Martina Viarengo, 18 January 2013

A workforce’s cognitive skills and ability to learn are regarded as crucial factors for countries hoping to develop and become competitive in the global knowledge economy. This column argues that many developing countries‘ basic educational attainment and learning outcomes remain wanting. Taking a look at Europe’s historical record can shed light on the developing-country context, and evidence suggests that simply expanding an ill-functioning educational system will be wasteful. It’s advisable for policymakers to pursue institutional reform aimed at cost-efficiency before they begin implementing school reforms.

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