26 May 2015

Does spending on education increase learning?

Evidence from the Guardian UK university ranking, which scores universities both on their value-added (final exam scores minus pre-university exam scores - a measure of how much students learnt at university), spending, and student-staff ratio.

aaaand surprise surprise, spending looks totally uncorrelated with learning.

Smaller class sizes do seem to be doing something (small sample sizes, correlation not causation, yadda yadda), which makes you wonder what the high-spend, large class-size universities are spending all their money on.

25 May 2015

National Development vs Poverty Reduction, in charts

These charts by Branko Milanovic deserve looking at again and again. A few years ago Adrian Wood told my entire economics class to print off the Angus Maddison long-run world GDP chart and stick it on our walls so we’d look at it every day. I’d suggest adding the Milanovic chart alongside it.

I was struck earlier today (whilst listening to the latest Development Drums) how these charts could be used to illustrate the comparison between anti-poverty programs and National development that Lant talks about.

Projects to increase an individual’s income in developing countries can help people get a better livelihood amongst those available in that country, but they probably aren’t going to change the overall set of opportunities facing people living in a country. If you want to earn yourself rich, you need to sell stuff to rich people - that means exporting goods or services to rich countries (trade), moving to a rich country to sell your labour (migration), or encouraging rich people to come visit your country (tourism).

Graphically, the most successful ever anti-poverty program might at best move a bunch of people from point A to point B.

By comparison, migrating lets someone move from point C to point D.

And for something truly transformative, national development, probably based on exports, allows the whole country to shift up from E to F.

Anti-poverty programs can’t solve poverty.

06 May 2015

The philanthro-nik manifesto

"We—the philanthro-niks—want more philanthropy to be strategic. Our fundamental challenge is this: that social change is hard and calls for slow thinking, but most donors will only think fast. It therefore falls to us to do the work that Thaler describes: get the evidence, and make it easy."

Caroline Fiennes in the SSIR

04 May 2015

The impact of voluntourism

Interesting new paper on the impact of working for Teach for America on outcomes for the teacher (with causal identification from an application discontinuity) by Will Dobbie and Roland Fryer.

Participating in TFA increases racial tolerance, makes individuals more optimistic about the life prospects of poor children, and makes them more likely to work in education

I’d love to see a study like this for voluntourism in developing countries. HT: Kevin Lewis