23 July 2015

New education economics papers

A few papers caught my eye from last month's repec new education economics papers feed. All from developed countries, but such is economics, a lot of the interesting new research happens on rich countries where the researchers are more likely to know about interesting policies and institutional features to study, and where there is better data (both problems which RISE is seeking to address, by encouraging collaborations between developing country-based researchers and leading academics based at top universities in rich countries, and also by funding new data collection in developing countries).

"Quantifying the Supply Response of Private Schools to Public Policies” by Michael Dinerstein and Troy Smith looks at a reform in New York which increased the budget for some public schools, finding an increase in enrolment at these schools, and that nearby private schools lost business and were slightly more likely to shut down. In an interesting twist, whilst the reform improved quality at the public schools that received extra money, the movement of some students from higher quality private schools to lower quality public schools meant that overall outcomes from the school system were not improved. All of which reminds me of the recent story from Rwanda that some private schools seem to be going out of business by the growth of public schools. What is that shift doing to the overall quality mix?

The Information Value of Central School Exams” by Guido Schwerdt & Ludger Woessmann compares students in Germany who graduated from states which use a centralized common school-leaving exam to those with a local school-set leaving exam. Better grades are roughly three times more valuable in the labour market when they come from centralized exams than from school-set exams. In Lagos, private school associations are currently in the process of joining together to put their students through common school leaving exams for partly this reason.

Nicola Bianchi’s Job Market Paper looks at "The General Equilibrium Effects of Educational Expansion” - when Italy expanded STEM higher education in 1961, enrolment increased by 200%. However - those students who enrolled didn’t earn any more than they would have had they not enrolled, because the massive increase in the supply of qualified students reduced the labour market premium for that qualification, as well as the quality of education suffering due to congestion and peer effects. Which of course should remind you of Lant’s classic “Where has all the education gone?"

How much does the new deworming replication matter for Effective Altruists?

It doesn’t at all, as far as I can tell. As Calum points out, what matters is the systematic review of evidence not one study. And the new Cochrane systematic review doesn’t seem to have responded to the criticism from Duflo et al to their 2012 review, that it ignores quasi-experimental and long-term evidence on positive impacts of deworming (specifically Bleakley 2004, Ozier, and Baird et al).

A replication of the famous Miguel and Kremer deworming paper that launched the whole RCT in development economics movement, is published in the Journal of International Epidemiology today (along with comment from Hicks, Kremer, and Miguel, and reply from the replication authors), with coverage in the Guardian and by Ben Goldacre for Buzzfeed.

You may remember Berk Ozler's review of the draft of the replication paper back in January - concluding

"Bottom line: Based on what I have seen in the reanalysis study by DAHH and the response by HKM, my view of the original study is more or less unchanged."

You can probably expect to see more on the replication coming from @cblatts, which I’m not going to get into, but back in 2012, Givewell were convinced that the Cochrane review shoudn’t change their recommendation to donate to the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative or Deworm the World.

The ambiguity does make me a little queasy, and pushes me more in the direction of GiveDirectly (I see basically zero risk that giving $1000 to someone on a very low income can really be totally wasted, in the way that an ineffective drug could theoretically have zero impact).

16 July 2015

Migration fact of the day

"Today, approximately 7 million Indians work in six GCC countries, which is more than 50% of estimated 13 million foreign workers present in the GCC. The Indian workers in GCC remit about US$40 billion i.e. around 57% of the total remittances, i.e. US$70 billion India receives annually. Besides contributing significantly to the national forex reserves, the remittances received directly by the workers’ families help in poverty alleviation, support local business, promote entrepreneurship and generate employment."

That’s Zakir Hussain on the World Bank blog. Worth remembering this context next time you read a scandal about the poor treatment of Indian workers in the Gulf.

15 July 2015

Calling Education Researchers…

I just got back from the fourth of seven events being held around the world drumming up interest in bidding for the RISE “Research on Systems of Education” project. There is £21 million of DFID money to be split between 5 country research teams (with a preference for bids from Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, or other DFID focus countries) to study reforms that are happening to education systems that might credibly have a big impact of student learning. EOIs due 23rd August. 
There is plenty more information on the CGD website and the new RISE website,  but to make things really easy, here are a few key links about the project and how to bid (very helpfully put together by Mari).