Maternal time investment in early childhood

Researchers have shown that early childhood (pre-primary) education is quite important. Skill differences among children already exist by the time they start primary school, and they’re likely to persist over time. But how do these skill differences arise?

Factors including income, family structure, parental education, maternal employment, child care, school quality and neighborhood characteristics all play a role. But the subject of this post is maternal time investment in early childhood.

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Performance pay for teachers

Making teacher salaries contingent on teacher performance can theoretically lead to better student outcomes. On the other hand, it can incentivize cheating (by the teachers) and teaching to the test. Interestingly, no long-term study of teachers’ pay-for-performance schemes has been conducted until quite recently.

In this post, I’ll look into the first study that investigated the effect of merit-based teacher pay not only on student performance in high school, but also on post-secondary and labor market outcomes.

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Does education pay off for criminals?

Returns to education on the labor market are sizable and have been growing. But is this the case for illegitimate activities as well? Do criminals have positive returns to education? On the one hand, less educated individuals are more likely to become criminals. But this doesn’t preclude the possibility that more educated criminals be more successful.

Of course, crime is a rather loose definition that includes a variety of activities. One could expect that there is no returns to education in certain criminal activities. But what about organized crime? Setting up rackets is like extracting optimal rents, loan sharking requires risk management, and drug dealing involves setting up a supply chain. It can be reasonably expected that education pays off in organized crime.

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Elite universities and social mobility

Social mobility has decreased over the past two decades. Overall, there was some divergence between countries: the US, the UK and France for instance experienced a decrease in social mobility, while the trends were rather flat in e.g. the Nordic countries.

One dimension along which these countries differ is their tertiary education system: the US, the UK and France have two-tier systems with standard and elite universities. In this post I’m asking what effect such a stratification of college education can have on social mobility.

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The long-run effects of charter schools

Many short-term interventions in a child’s life (e.g. pre-school) can generate positive effects for the subsequent years. However, the problem is that the effects of many of these interventions is not persistent. The gains disappear 2-3 years after the program.

Does the same happen with charter school enrollment? We know that charter schools can increase test scores (though not always). But in order to identify long-term effects, we’d have to look at the college or labor market outcomes of former charter enrollees vs. students of traditional schools.

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Pollution and cognitive performance

Air pollution has been shown to have negative health outcomes such as lower life expectancy, increased illness and hospitalization rates. This is relatively straightforward. But given that pollution can penetrate the blood flow and the circulatory system, it may even have effects on cognition.

If pollution can indeed affect cognitive performance, even in the short run, then the harm from pollution is not limited to “simple” health issues. This means that days with higher air pollution can have lower labor productivity, more injuries in the workplace, and even lower test scores on various exams taken by students.

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Group-blind admissions and the college GPA gap

It is relatively well-known that blacks and Hispanics perform worse in college than whites and Asians do. This, some people propose, is an obvious consequence of affirmative action. By allowing disadvantaged groups to gain admission to college with lower test scores, lots of underqualified applicants will be admitted. This will then generate the aforementioned inequality in college performance.

But would race-blind admissions help eliminate this inequality? On the one hand, such an admission policy would evaluate students with the same standards regardless of race. On the other hand, if there’s a more fundamental inequality among students that already exists prior to college (like inequality in high school performance), then even race-blind policies can’t prevent unequal performance in college.

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