nep-edu New Economics Papers
on Education
Issue of 2010‒02‒13
seventeen papers chosen by
Joao Carlos Correia Leitao
Polytechnic Institute of Portalegre and Technical University of Lisbon

  1. Public sector decentralization and school performance: International evidence By Falch, Torberg; Fischer, Justina AV
  2. Estimating the BenefiÂ…t of High School for College-Bound Students By Morin, Louis-Philippe
  3. Does school autonomy improve educational outcomes? Judging the performance of foundation secondary schools in England By Rebecca Allen
  4. College Achievement and Earnings By Gemus, Jonathan
  5. Valuing School Quality via a School Choice Reform By Machin, Stephen; Salvanes, Kjell G.
  6. Earning While Learning: Labor Market Returns to Student Employment During Tertiary Education By Regula Geel; Uschi Backes-Gellner
  7. In School or at Work? Evidence from a Crisis By López Bóo, Florencia
  8. Econometric Methods for Causal Evaluation of Education Policies and Practices: A Non-Technical Guide By Schlotter, Martin; Schwerdt, Guido; Woessmann, Ludger
  9. Genetic Markers as Instrumental Variables:An Application to Child Fat Mass and Academic Achievement By Stephanie von Hinke Kessler Scholder; George Davey Smith; Debbie A. Lawlor; Carol Propper; Frank Windmeijer
  10. The Evolution of the Returns to Human Capital in Canada, 1980-2005 By Boudarbat, Brahim; Lemieux, Thomas; Riddell, W. Craig
  11. Subsidized Vocational Training: Stepping Stone or Trap? An Evaluation Study for East Germany By Eva Dettmann; Jutta Günther
  12. The Black Economy and Education By Kolml, Ann-Sofie; Larsen, Birthe
  13. Do Peers Affect Student Achievement? Evidence from Canada Using Group Size Variation By Boucher, Vincent; Bramoullé, Yann; Djebbari, Habiba; Fortin, Bernard
  14. La misurazione del capitale umano: una rassegna della letteratura By Nosvelli Mario
  15. Selling the ivory tower and regional development: Technology transfer offices as mediators of university-industry linkages By Reiner, Christian
  16. Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation By Cunha, Flavio; Heckman, James J.; Schennach, Susanne
  17. Predicting strategic change of public research institutions under unstable negative growth By Coccia Mario

  1. By: Falch, Torberg; Fischer, Justina AV
    Abstract: Using a panel of international student test scores 1980 – 2000 (PISA and TIMSS), panel fixed effects estimates suggest that government spending decentralization is conducive to student performance. The effect does not appear to be mediated through levels of educational spending.
    Keywords: Fiscal decentralization; Student achievement; federalism; PISA; TIMSS; education; school quality
    JEL: H40 I20 H20 C33
    Date: 2010–01–29
  2. By: Morin, Louis-Philippe
    Abstract: Studies based on instrumental variable techniques suggest that the value of a high school education is large for potential dropouts, yet we know much less about the size of the benefi…t for students who will go on to post-secondary education. To help …fill this gap, I measure the value-added of a year of high-school mathematics for university-bound students using a recent Ontario secondary school reform. The subject speci…ficity of this reform makes it possible to identify the benefi…t of an extra year of mathematics despite the presence of self-selection: one can use subjects unaffected by the reform to control for potential ability differences between control and treatment groups. Further, the richness of the data allows me to generalize the standard difference-in-differences estimator, correcting for heterogeneity in ability measurement across subjects. The estimated value- added to an extra year of mathematics is small for these students –of the order of 17 percent of a standard deviation in university grades. This evidence helps to explain why the literature fi…nds only modest effects of taking more mathematics in high school on wages, the small monetary gain being due to a lack of subject-speci…c human capital accumulation. Within- and between-sample comparisons also suggest that the extra year of mathematics benefi…ts lower-ability students more than higher-ability students.
    Keywords: Human Capital, High School Curriculum, Education Reform, Mathematics, Factor Model
    JEL: I20 I21 I28
    Date: 2010–01–30
  3. By: Rebecca Allen (Depatment of Quantitative Social Science - Institute of Education, University of London.)
    Abstract: Government and researchers use school performance measures such as contextual value-added to claim that giving schools autonomy from local authority control produces superior pupil performance in GCSE examinations. This paper explores the extent to which inferring causality between autonomy and pupil achievement is reasonable given that pupils are not randomly assigned to schools and schools do not randomly acquire autonomous status. Rich administrative data and the Longitudinal Survey of Young People in England are used to evaluate whether CVA-style inferences are confounded by pupil characteristics that explain both the chances of attending an autonomous school and academic achievement. The assignment of grant-maintained (and thus now foundation) status through a vote of parents is used to compare school that just did, and just did not, gain autonomy over a decade ago. These alternative estimation strategies suggest there is little evidence that foundation status casually yields superior school performance.
    Keywords: school autonomy, school effectiveness, foundation schools
    JEL: I21 I28
    Date: 2010–02–03
  4. By: Gemus, Jonathan (Department of Economics)
    Abstract: I study the size and sources of the monetary return to college achievement as measured by cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA). I first present evidence that the return to achievement is large and statistically significant. I find, however, that this masks variation in the return across different groups of people. In particular, there is no relationship between GPA and earnings for graduate degree holders but a large and positive relationship for people without a graduate degree. To reconcile these results, I develop a model where students of differing and initially uncertain ability levels choose effort level in college and whether to earn a graduate degree. College achievement and graduate attainment are allowed to increase human capital and be used by employers to screen workers. In the separating equilibrium studied, workers who earn a graduate degree can effectively signal high productivity to employers. As a result, employers use undergraduate GPA-a noisy signal of productivity-to screen only the workers who do not hold a graduate degree. Viewing the empirical results through the lens of this equilibrium, the zero GPA-earnings relationship for graduate degree holders and the positive and large relationship for people without a graduate degree suggests that most of the reutrn to achievement net of graduate educational attainment is driven by sorting.
    Keywords: Returns to Education; Academic Achievement; Signaling; Human Capital
    JEL: D82 I20 I21 J24
    Date: 2010–01–27
  5. By: Machin, Stephen (University College London); Salvanes, Kjell G. (Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration)
    Abstract: Among policymakers, educators and economists there remains a strong, sometimes heated, debate on the extent to which good schools matter. This is seen, for instance, in the strong trend towards establishing accountability systems in education in many countries across the world. In this paper, in line with some recent studies, we value school quality using house prices. We, however, adopt a rather different approach to other work, using a policy experiment regarding pupils' choice to attend high schools to identify the relationship between house prices and school performance. We exploit a change in school choice policy that took place in Oslo county in 1997, where the school authorities opened up the possibility for every pupil to apply to any of the high schools in the county without having to live in the school's catchment area (the rule that applied before 1997). Our estimates show evidence that parents substantially value better performing schools since the sensitivity of housing valuations to school performance falls significantly by over 50% following the school choice reform.
    Keywords: house prices, school performance, school reform
    JEL: I2
    Date: 2010–01
  6. By: Regula Geel (Institute for Strategy and Business Economics, University of Zurich); Uschi Backes-Gellner (Institute for Strategy and Business Economics, University of Zurich)
    Abstract: We examine how different student employment statuses during tertiary education affect short-term and medium-term labor market returns. We focus on differences between students studying full-time and students studying and working part-time, i.e., ‘earning while learning’. In addition, we distinguish between student employment with and without relation to the study. Using a representative survey of Swiss graduates of tertiary education, we find significant positive labor market returns of ’earning while learning‘, but only for related student employment and not for unrelated student employment. The returns come in the form of lower unemployment risk, shorter job search duration, higher wage effects and greater responsibility. Therefore, student employment with a relation to the study is a complement to formal education and augments skills and knowledge.
    Keywords: Student Employment, Part-time Studies, Tertiary Education
    JEL: I21 J31 J64
    Date: 2010–02
  7. By: López Bóo, Florencia (Inter-American Development Bank)
    Abstract: This paper examines the effect of labor market opportunities on schooling-employment decisions in 12 urban areas in Argentina over 12 years, emphasizing the recession/crisis years 1998-2002. The effects of macroeconomic swings on schooling decisions are examined with a focus on whether the income or substitution effect dominates as macroeconomic conditions change. I demonstrate that over "typical" years deteriorating job rates (or wages) increase the probability of attending school and decrease the probability of combining work and school, particularly for boys. After controlling for household and individual characteristics I find that the probability of being in school for secondary school youth was about 6 percentage points higher in 2002 than in 1998 (before the recession started). In fact, a 10 percent decrease in the job rate alone has been responsible for a 5.4 percentage point rise in the probability of school attendance since 2000. This effect is attenuated during the 2002 crisis when household expectations change in response to shocks. These estimates allow for the fact that a new Federal Education Law (FEL) in 1996 extended mandatory education to 10 years and might have affected schooling outcomes.
    Keywords: schooling decision, macroeconomic shocks, local labor market opportunities
    JEL: I21 J31
    Date: 2010–01
  8. By: Schlotter, Martin (Ifo Institute for Economic Research); Schwerdt, Guido (Ifo Institute for Economic Research); Woessmann, Ludger (Ifo Institute for Economic Research)
    Abstract: Education policy-makers and practitioners want to know which policies and practices can best achieve their goals. But research that can inform evidence-based policy often requires complex methods to distinguish causation from accidental association. Avoiding econometric jargon and technical detail, this paper explains the main idea and intuition of leading empirical strategies devised to identify causal impacts and illustrates their use with real-world examples. It covers six evaluation methods: controlled experiments, lotteries of oversubscribed programs, instrumental variables, regression discontinuities, differences-in-differences, and panel-data techniques. Illustrating applications include evaluations of early-childhood interventions, voucher lotteries, funding programs for disadvantaged, and compulsory-school and tracking reforms.
    Keywords: causal effects, education, policy evaluation, non-technical guide
    JEL: I20 C01
    Date: 2010–01
  9. By: Stephanie von Hinke Kessler Scholder; George Davey Smith; Debbie A. Lawlor; Carol Propper; Frank Windmeijer
    Abstract: The use of genetic markers as instrumental variables (IV) is receiving increasing attention from economists. This paper examines the conditions that need to be met for genetic variants to be used as instruments. We combine the IV literature with that from genetic epidemiology, with an application to child adiposity (fat mass, determined by a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan) and academic performance. OLS results indicate that leaner children perform slightly better in school tests compared to their more adipose counterparts, but the IV findings show no evidence that fat mass affects academic outcomes.
    Keywords: Instrumental variables; Mendelian randomization; Genetic variant; Potential outcomes; Academic performance; Educational attainment; Adiposity; Fat mass; Body Mass Index; ALSPAC
    JEL: I1 I2 J24
    Date: 2010–01
  10. By: Boudarbat, Brahim; Lemieux, Thomas; Riddell, W. Craig
    Abstract: We examine the evolution of the returns to human capital in Canada over the period 1980-2005. Our main finding is that returns to education increased substantially for Canadian men, contrary to conclusions reached previously. Most of this rise took place in the early 1980s and since 1995. Returns to education also rose, albeit more modestly, for Canadian women. Another important development is that after years of expansion, the wage gap between younger and older workers stabilized after 1995. Controlling for work experience and using Canadian Census data appear to account for the main differences between our results and earlier findings.
    Keywords: Human Capital, Wage Differentials, Canada
    JEL: J24 J31
    Date: 2010–01–30
  11. By: Eva Dettmann; Jutta Günther
    Abstract: The aim of this paper is to analyze whether the formally equal qualifications acquired during a subsidized vocational education induce equal employment opportunities compared to regular vocational training. Using replacement matching on the basis of a statistical distance function, we are able to control for selection effects resulting from different personal and profession-related characteristics, and thus, to identify an unbiased effect of the public support. Besides the ‘total effect’ of support, it is of special interest if the effect is stronger for subsidized youths in external training compared to persons in workplace-related training. The analysis is based on unique and very detailed data, the Youth Panel of the Halle Centre for Social Research (zsh). The results show that young people who successfully completed a subsidized vocational education are disadvantaged regarding their employment opportunities even when controlling for personal and profession-related influences on the employment prospects. Besides a quantitative effect, the analysis shows that the graduates of subsidized training work in slightly worse (underqualified) and worse paid jobs than the adolescents in the reference group. The comparison of both types of subsidized vocational training, however, does not confirm the expected stronger effect for youths in external vocational education compared to workplace-related training.
    Keywords: microeconometric evaluation, matching, vocational education, East Germany
    JEL: C14 I21 J24
    Date: 2010–01
  12. By: Kolml, Ann-Sofie (Dept. of Economics, Stockholm University); Larsen, Birthe (Insead, CEBR and Copenhagen Business School)
    Abstract: This paper develops and equilibrium search and matching model with informal sector employment opportunities and educational choice. We show that informal sector job opportunities distort educational attainment inducing a too low stock of educated workers. As informal job opportunities to a larger extent face low skilled workers, combating the informal sector improves welfare as it increases the incentives for education. However, too aggressive combating of the informal sector is not optimal as that induces inefficiently high unemployment rates.
    Keywords: Tax evasion; underground economy; education; matching; unemployment
    JEL: H26 I21 J64
    Date: 2010–02–02
  13. By: Boucher, Vincent (University of Montreal); Bramoullé, Yann (Université Laval); Djebbari, Habiba (Université Laval); Fortin, Bernard (Université Laval)
    Abstract: We provide the first empirical application of a new approach proposed by Lee (2007) to estimate peer effects in a linear-in-means model. This approach allows to control for group-level unobservables and to solve the reflection problem. We investigate peer effects in student achievement in Mathematics, Science, French and History in Quebec secondary schools. We estimate the model using maximum likelihood and instrumental variables methods. We find evidence of peer effects. The endogenous peer effect is positive, when significant, and some contextual peer effects matter. Using calibrated Monte Carlo simulations, we find that high dispersion in group sizes helps with potential issues of weak identification.
    Keywords: reflection problem, student achievement, peer effects
    JEL: C31 I20 Z13
    Date: 2010–01
  14. By: Nosvelli Mario (Ceris - Institute for Economic Research on Firms and Growth, Milan, Italy)
    Abstract: As well known, human capital plays a crucial role both for private and social wellbeing. Notwithstanding, measurement of human capital is not univocally defined in empirical analyses, since different indicators and methods are employed and, sometimes, the proxies seem to be not very efficient for human capital econometric specification. The main aim of this paper is to provide a comprehensive review of different measurements of human capital showing the most diffused approaches based both on simple indexes and on more complex statistical and econometric tools. Since human capital is a multifaceted and complex asset, a necessary condition to better measure it is to improve its understanding and definition, which are the basic requirements of an efficient measurement. Two major results emerge from this analysis. Firstly, it appears quite clearly that the best measurement of human capital in absolute terms does not exist, but, on the contrary, methods or formula which seem the most efficient and coherent to analytical objectives should be adopted. Secondly, approaching human capital measurement, data quality and availability are essential, more than any other methodological and theoretical issue.
    Keywords: Human capital measurement; Quantity and quality of education; Education statistics and estimation
    JEL: J24 E24 I21
    Date: 2009–06
  15. By: Reiner, Christian (University of Salzburg)
    Abstract: This article focuses on the role of Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) in regional development in three Austrian regions that represent different types of regional economies. TTOs can be defined as “bridging institutions” between academia and business. The value added by this approach emerges due to empirical results demonstrating that the variety of TTO functions and their respective spatial-profile of activities depend heavily on the regional context. Regional economic structure and regional policy systematically shape the spatial profile of TTO activities. The distinction between active and passive TTOs emerged as an important one regarding their potential regional economic development impact. While passive TTOs merely facilitate already existing contacts of the academic staff, active TTOs generate new university-industry linkages. These additionally created contacts are heavily biased towards the regional level. Intellectual property rights (IPR)-related TTO activities show a rather weak regional impact. This might prove problematic for policy makers that foster the patent-oriented commercialization of knowledge as a means to intensify knowledge spillovers from the universities to regional or national firms.
    Keywords: Universities; Technology transfer offices; regional innovation systems; regional policy; Austria
    JEL: I23 I28 O33 O34 R11 R58
    Date: 2010–02–01
  16. By: Cunha, Flavio (University of Pennsylvania); Heckman, James J. (University of Chicago); Schennach, Susanne (University of Chicago)
    Abstract: This paper formulates and estimates multistage production functions for children's cognitive and noncognitive skills. Skills are determined by parental environments and investments at different stages of childhood. We estimate the elasticity of substitution between investments in one period and stocks of skills in that period to assess the benefits of early investment in children compared to later remediation. We establish nonparametric identification of a general class of production technologies based on nonlinear factor models with endogenous inputs. A by-product of our approach is a framework for evaluating childhood and schooling interventions that does not rely on arbitrarily scaled test scores as outputs and recognizes the differential effects of the same bundle of skills in different tasks. Using the estimated technology, we determine optimal targeting of interventions to children with different parental and personal birth endowments. Substitutability decreases in later stages of the life cycle in the production of cognitive skills. It increases slightly in later stages of the life cycle in the production of noncognitive skills. This finding has important implications for the design of policies that target the disadvantaged. For some configurations of disadvantage and for some outcomes, it is optimal to invest relatively more in the later stages of childhood than in earlier stages.
    Keywords: cognitive skills, noncognitive skills, dynamic factor analysis, endogeneity of inputs, anchoring test scores, parental influence
    JEL: C31 J13
    Date: 2010–01
  17. By: Coccia Mario (Ceris - Institute for Economic Research on Firms and Growth, Moncalieri (Turin), Italy)
    Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to forecast and analyse, by a demographic perspective, the organizational behaviour of public research labs. The research focuses on the biggest Italian public research body. Demographic models of growth, based on different human resource policies, show the uncertain and retrogressive evolutionary change of Italian public research bodies that would halve their research personnel over the forecast horizon. These results provide vital information to the public management about the weaknesses and environmental threats in order to support decisions for improving the strategic change and survival of public research institutions over time.
    Keywords: Organizational Studies, Forecasting, Public Research Institutions, Internal Demography
    JEL: I20 J11 J26
    Date: 2009–12

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