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Tag Archives: Economics of Education

Doubts about education “reform”

I’m skeptical of most proposals for reforming education.  Progressives tend to favor government schools, whereas conservatives tend to favor an approach that yields high test scores.  I don’t buy either view. American education reformers often point to Finland, which has produced high “PISA” scores relative to other western countries.  (They tend ignore even higher Asian PISA scores, just as they ignore Singapore’s success in health care.  Apparently only European...

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Profligacy for Austerity?

Suppose you strongly desire to drastically increase the amount of education that people consume.  What should you do? The obvious answer: Make education completely free of charge – and have the government pay the the entire cost. I say this obvious answer is obviously right.  As I explain in The Case Against Education, I favor extreme educational austerity, because I think the education system is a waste of time and money.  Nevertheless, given the goal of drastically...

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You can’t have it both ways

Progressives often cite median income data when trying to show that average Americans do not benefit from rising productivity. Real median income (by some measures) has been fairly flat since 1973. I’ve done numerous posts pointing out that this income data is extremely misleading, indeed almost useless. In material terms, living standards are obviously much higher than in 1973 (a period I can recall.)  Scott Winship has also exposed a number of flaws in the...

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Nobel Laureates Aim Too Low on Global Poverty

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences will award the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences to Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Michael Kremer of Harvard “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.” The award reveals a deepening fault line among economists about how best to fight poverty. What’s striking about the award is that the Nobel committee gave it to the three economists specifically for addressing “smaller, more...

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Gordon Tullock’s Generosity

One of the delights I had on my trip to Boise State University last week was getting to know my host Allen Dalton, an adjunct economics professor at BSU. Besides having great economics discussions, we had good discussions, mainly positive, about various economists we know in common. One positive story stands out. Allen started as a Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA when James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock were still there. One day in 1977, early in his...

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The Latest Nobel Prize in Economics

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences will award the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences to Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Michael Kremer of Harvard “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.” The award reveals a deepening fault line among economists about how best to fight poverty. What’s striking about the award is that the Nobel committee gave it to the three economists specifically for...

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Chicago Does Not Understand Incentives

The University of Chicago, that is. The University of Chicago on Tuesday announced a series of reforms aimed at getting students through their graduate programs faster and with better training for whatever careers they pursue. In so doing, Chicago is the latest institution to address excessive timelines, completion problems and poor faculty job markets for many Ph.D. students. These are the opening two paragraphs of Colleen Flaherty, “Bold Move in Graduate...

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Students Selling Notes

A student of mine recently sent me a screen shot of a Facebook post that had been removed by its author.  The post said: Notes for the final exam for “Intro to Political Economy” with Munger. If you study and memorize them then I guarantee an A on the final exam which is all essays. (I got 98%). It covers all the possible topics. Willing to sell to best offer (thinking $20-$50).  Many pages of thorough notes. Thanks. I was delighted, but also a little mystified, by...

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Letter from a Pakistani Homeschooler

I recently received this email from Pakistani homeschooler Fasih Zulfiqar.  I advised him to seek out econ professors at the nearest universities, but he’d likely appreciate further advice.  Reprinted with his permission. Hello Prof Bryan, Fasih here. Perhaps Prof Cowen informed you about me, but in case he did not, let me introduce myself. I’m a student from Pakistan who has self-studied through secondary education. I decided to quit schooling when I was in grade 6,...

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The proper goal of education is utility, not learning

Alex Tabarrok has a couple of recent posts that discuss the student evaluation of college teaching. One post ended as follows: Indeed, the correlation between student evaluations and student learning is at best close to zero and at worst negative. Student evaluations measure how well liked the teacher is. Students like to be entertained. Thus, to the extent that they rely on student evaluations, universities are incentivizing teachers to teach in ways that the...

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