Education

Sofoklis Goulas, Rigissa Megalokonomou, 01 August 2021

Understanding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education requires a solid grasp of the impact of student autonomy on learning. This column examines the impacts of an innovative policy in Greece that provided higher-performing students with more autonomy. Targeted students missed more classes, while lower-performing students’ attendance remained unchanged. The autonomy policy was used more by students in academically diverse classrooms, and is associated with increased performance only in high-stakes subjects for targeted students.

Enrico Nano, Ugo Panizza, Martina Viarengo, 25 June 2021

Over the last 40 years, Italy has produced a large number of influential economists. This is somewhat surprising because economics is more likely to require technical training than other social sciences and, until the 1980s, Italy did not have any formal doctoral programme. This column examines how a large scholarship program contributed to the formation of a generation of Italian economists with a focus on gender and socioeconomic status, and on their interaction with social mobility.  

Petter Lundborg, Dan-Olof Rooth, 17 June 2021

School meal policies differ significantly between countries. Sweden and Finland serve healthy school lunches free of charge to all students, for instance, while children in neighbouring Norway and Denmark bring their own packed lunches from home. This column looks at a programme that introduced free nutritious school lunches for all pupils in Swedish primary schools between 1959 and 1969, and finds that children who participated during their entire primary school period went on to have higher lifetime incomes.

David Autor, David Figlio, Krzysztof Karbownik, Jeffrey Roth, Melanie Wasserman, 11 June 2021

Modest gender gaps emerge in primary school, with girls tending to perform better than boys in reading tests, for example, and less likely to experience disciplinary incidents that result in suspension. This column uses data from the US state of Florida to examine why these modest gaps translate into large gender differences in later educational attainment, such as completing secondary education and enrolling in and graduating from tertiary education. It finds that early childhood family environment has differential effects on boys, and particularly those at the lower tails of the academic test score and attendance distributions.

Martha J. Bailey, Shuqiao Sun, Brenden Timpe, 06 June 2021

Preschool attendance in the US is largely funded by parents, which means that the children of more affluent and educated parents are more likely to attend.  This column looks at the impact of Head Star, a large-scale preschool programme that serves roughly 1 million children annually in the US. The results show that children age-eligible for Head Start went on to achieve substantially higher levels of education. Head Start also led to improvements in adult economic self-sufficiency. Overall, the findings suggest that a large-scale preschool programme – even one with less per-child expenditures than model preschools – can deliver long-run benefits to students.

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