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?"