Li Yang, Filip Novokmet, Branko Milanovic, 09 October 2019

The historically unprecedented economic and social transformation in China over the past four decades has seen urban areas becoming much richer, but also much more unequal. This column analyses changes in the Chinese urban elite. It finds that, compared to the 1980s, the elite today consists mainly of professionals, self-employed, and smaller and larger business people, they are much better educated, and they receive a much greater share of total urban income. This is reflected also in the composition of the Communist Party of China.

Natalie Bau, 14 September 2019

Families’ attitudes towards educational investment and lifetime saving are underpinned by longstanding cultural attitudes that must be considered in policy design. This column shows that in Indonesia and Ghana – two culturally distinct societies – families historically invested in the education of those children who would look after parents in old age. The level of this investment declined after the introduction of pensions in both countries.

Sarah Cohodes, Elizabeth Setren, Chris Walters, 22 August 2019

Interventions that succeed in small-scale demonstrations often fail to sustain their effects when scaled up. This column examines the case of an expansion of the successful charter school sector in Boston, Massachusetts. The findings reveal that the city’s charter sector maintained effectiveness while doubling in size, and that organisational practices in the sector may be an important component of its success at scale.

Mara Squicciarini, 18 August 2019

Religion has had a complex relationship with technological progress throughout history, but there is scant empirical evidence on how conservative religious values may have affected the spread of new ideas and, by extension, economic development. This column examines the influence of the Catholic Church on technical education in France during the Second Industrial Revolution. It finds that areas with higher ‘religiosity’ had lower levels of industrial and economic development, suggesting that conservative religion can hamper economic development when it prevents primary schools from adopting technical education.

Laurence Boone, 26 July 2019

France has surprisingly low social mobility. OECD chief economist Laurence Boone tells Tim Phillips why this is the case, how the problem fuels the gilets jaunes protests, and what can be done about it.

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.

Maria Paula Cacault, Christian Hildebrand, Jeremy Laurent-Lucchetti, Michele Pellizzari, 23 June 2019

Distance learning technologies are attracting attention as demand for higher education grows around the world, but credible evidence on their effects on students’ outcomes is scarce. This column studies the impact of online live streaming of lectures on student achievement and attendance in a experiment with first-year undergraduate students at the University of Geneva. It finds that students use the live streaming technology only when events make attending class too costly, and that attending lectures via live streaming lowers achievement for low-ability students but increases it for high-ability ones.

Leandro de la Escosura, 15 June 2019

The concept of human development views wellbeing as being affected by a wide range of factors including health and education. This column examines worldwide long-term wellbeing from 1870-2015 with an augmented historical human development index (AHHDI) that combines new measures of achievements in health, education, material living standards, and political freedom. It shows that world human development has steadily improved over time, although advances have been unevenly distributed across world regions.

Thomas Cornelissen, Christian Dustmann, 08 June 2019

Primary education starts at age 6 or 7 in most OECD countries, but in the UK children start primary school at the age of 4 or 5. This column exploits local variation in school entry rules in the UK to investigate the effects of schooling at an early age on cognitive and non-cognitive development. It finds that early schooling boosts both cognitive and non-cognitive skills up until the age of 11. These effects tend to be strongest for boys from disadvantaged family backgrounds.

Dominic Rohner, Alessandro Saia, 05 May 2019

It is widely believed that education is a crucial factor in curbing political violence, but establishing causal evidence of this notoriously difficult. This column uses a large-scale school construction programme in Indonesia and newspaper reports of violence to tackle this problem. The results show that the construction of primary schools led to statistically significant reductions in conflict that grew larger over time. 

Nicholas W. Papageorge, Victor Ronda, Yu Zheng, 04 May 2019

Socio-emotional skills are generally believed to improve labour market outcomes. Using British and US longitudinal datasets, this column studies externalising behaviour – usually linked to aggression and hyperactivity – and internalising behaviour – linked to anxiety and depression – and how they relate to an individual’s earnings over the long term. It shows that for both genders, externalising behaviour lowers educational attainment but is associated with higher earnings.

Judith Delaney, Paul Devereux, 19 April 2019

Women are much less likely to study STEM degrees at university. This column reveals that in the case of Ireland, the gender gap is concentrated in the areas of engineering, technology, and mathematics. Subject choice in secondary school is the most important predictor of the portion of the gap that can be explained, with a small role for grades achieved in mathematics versus English. A gender gap of 9% remains even among students who studied the same subjects and achieved the same grades at secondary school.

Eric Hanushek, Paul Peterson, Laura M. Talpey, Ludger Woessmann, 15 April 2019

For 50 years, anti-poverty government programmes in the US have focused on improving school outcomes for poor children. This column reports new evidence that, contrary to recent thinking that gaps in student achievement by socioeconomic status have increased over the years, the gaps have been essentially flat over the past half-century. New policies and new approaches seem called for if we wish to lessen these gaps.

Nagore Iriberri, 12 April 2019

How should multiple choice tests be scored? It seems like a harmless question, but Nagore Iriberri tells Tim Phillips how she discovered that well-intentioned marking schemes may be penalising girls, and what we can do about it.

Elizabeth Caucutt, Nezih Guner, Christopher Rauh, 06 April 2019

In 2006, 67% of white women in the US between the ages of 25 and 54 were married, compared with only 34% of black women. This column examines the link between this and the decline in low-skilled jobs and the era of mass incarceration that have disproportionately affected black communities. It finds that differences in incarceration and employment dynamics between black and white men account for half of the black–white marriage gap.

Debora Revoltella, Philipp-Bastian Brutscher, Patricia Wruuck, 05 April 2019

Spending on education underpins the formation of human capital. But intra-EU labour mobility means that returns to such spending often accrue somewhere other than where the investment takes place, which can lead to sub-optimal levels of investment in countries that are subject to persistent outward migration. This column advocates for more intra-EU coordination on investment in education and proposes a novel mechanism for fostering more investment in human capital across the EU.

Laurence Boone, Antoine Goujard, 04 March 2019

The ‘yellow vest’ demonstrations in France appear, at least in part, to be another example of the anti-globalisation sentiment that has emerged in a number of OECD countries. This column argues that the movement is also rooted in the country’s broken social elevator. Redistribution through taxes and social transfers is not sufficient to curb the inequality in opportunity, which is mostly linked to the educational system and perpetuates economic and social situations from one generation to the next.

Alberto Alesina, Michela Carlana, Eliana La Ferrara, Paolo Pinotti, 02 February 2019

There is a lively debate whether biased behaviour can be changed through the use of ‘implicit bias training’ or awareness of stereotypes. Yet, there is no causal evidence to guide this debate. Using data on teachers’ stereotypes toward immigrants elicited through an Implicit Association Test in Italy, this column studies how revealing to teachers their own test score impacts their grading of immigrant and native students. Revealing stereotypes may be a powerful intervention to decrease discrimination; however, it may also induce a reaction from individuals who were not acting in a biased way.

Ruchir Agarwal, Patrick Gaulé, 23 December 2018

Exceptional mathematics talents generate breakthroughs that move the entire field forward. This column explores how the talent of exceptional mathematics students from several countries affects their outcomes and contributions to the field. Small differences in talent during adolescence are associated with sizeable differences in long-term achievements, from getting a PhD to receiving a Fields medal. The research highlights the social losses associated with the lack of opportunities available to students in low-income countries.

Radim Bohacek, Jesus Bueren, Laura Crespo, Pedro Mira, Josep Pijoan-Mas, 06 December 2018

Comparing cross-country similarities and differences can be useful to understand the origins of health inequality, but is hampered by a lack of harmonised and comparable data. This column brings together panel data from ten countries in continental Europe, England, and the US to compare inequalities in total life expectancy, disability-free life expectancy, and years spent in disability across education levels and gender. Among the findings are that ‘women get sicker but men die quicker’ is to a large extent a low-education phenomenon.

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