Robert Ainsworth, Rajeev Dehejia, Cristian Pop-Eleches , Miguel Urquiola, 07 February 2021

While giving households the freedom to choose their children’s schools is said to improve educational outcomes, households do not always choose the option that would boost their child’s performance the most. This column uses an informational experiment in Romania to examine whether households simply lack information about the schools’ ‘value-added’ or prefer to prioritise other school traits. When informed about the value-added of the local schools, households assigned higher preference ranks to high value-added schools. However, the experiment also affected the preferences of the students, suggesting that both information limitations and preferences seem to matter in school choice.

Mikko Silliman, Hanna Virtanen, 30 January 2021

Policymakers are growing increasingly interested in the effects of vocational training on labour-market outcomes. This column uses a quasi-experimental design based on admissions cut-offs to secondary education in Finland to study the long-term effects of access to vocational education. Applicants near the admissions margin experience an average 6% increase in earnings in their mid-thirties if admitted to the vocational track. For students with a preference for the vocational track, failing to be admitted to the vocational track reduces employment in their mid-thirties by nearly 20%.

Gordon Dahl, Dan-Olof Rooth, Anders Stenberg, 10 November 2020

In many countries, secondary school students choose between academic fields without knowing what impact their choice will have on future earnings. This column argues that information on field-specific earnings premiums could not only help students to plan for their future, but could also help policymakers to allocate education resources. Taking advantage of the distinctive admissions system in Sweden’s secondary schools, the authors find that earnings payoffs for engineering, natural science, and business are generally positive, while the returns to social science and humanities are mostly negative.

Diether W. Beuermann, Kirabo Jackson, 06 July 2019

Most parents have strong views regarding which schools to send their children to. However, evidence shows that attending sought-after public secondary schools does not improve secondary-school examination performance. This column uses data from Barbados to show that secondary school choice does not appear to lead to improvements in exam performance. However, it does have a sizable effect on short-run non-cognitive outcomes that may affect longer-run outcomes.

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