Education

The increase in the cost of college and university and the difficult job market have increased the demand for college rankings. College Scorecard, the U.S. Department of Education’s entry, includes information on tuition, graduate rate, loan default rate and by 2015 it is scheduled to have information on graduate earnings. The Washington Monthly has a best bang for the buck ranking which works similarly.

A new and interesting entry into this field comes from LinkedIn which uses data on its 300 million members to define desirable employers and then rank universities based on getting their graduates jobs with those employers. The methodology is somewhat opaque and a bit sketchy but the idea is to define desirable employers by industry based on the revealed preference of employees in LinkedIn. In particular, firm A is raised relative to firm B if more people move from B to A than from A to B and similarly if firm A retains its employees longer than firm B. The percentage of a college’s recent graduates who obtain employment from the desirable employers is then used to rank the universities. No cost factors are included.

The results are not too surprising although by this ranking Georgetown university does better in finance (coming 3rd after the University of Pennyslvania and Yale) than I would have expected.

The results are less important, however, than the idea of using lots of data, often collected for other reasons, to unlock hidden value. Facebook has considerably more profiles than LinkedIn, often with education and employment data, so this type of analysis could become more common and more precise.

Hat tip: Tom Acox.

Neil Parmar has a good recent piece on the best ways to bribe your children.  Here is one of his points:

In addition to spelling out expectations and agreeing on rewards for specific achievements, surprise them once a while with a special reward for good behavior on a continuing basis. Research on how the brain works shows that children react well to surprises.

An unexpected trip to the aquarium, a local museum or another special experience “can be very motivating to a child,” says Srini Pillay, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and chief executive of NeuroBusiness Group, which uses brain science to help children and adults overcome psychological obstacles.

Science has shown that unexpected rewards, especially for younger children, can encourage them to make certain behaviors into a lifestyle. Sometimes when Brett Arrington, who owns a consulting firm, is shopping with his 6- and 9-year-old boys he purchases a toy they really want. Mr. Arrington waits until the boys have been especially helpful—by cleaning up someone else’s mess, for example—then he surprises them with the toy. It “works well because it’s not a promise and can happen whenever and for whatever,” says Mr. Arrington.

The full article is here.  It also suggests letting your children choose the reward and “matching gifts,” where you match their contribution toward some good or service, especially as your children grow older and develop some earning capacity.

Wild marmosets in the Brazilian forest can learn quite successfully from video demonstrations featuring other marmosets, Austrian scientists have reported, showing not only that marmosets are even better learners than previously known, but that video can be used successfully in experiments in the wild.

Tina Gunhold, a cognitive biologist at the University of Vienna, had worked with a population of marmoset monkeys in a bit of Brazilian forest before this particular experiment.

The forest is not wilderness. It lies near some apartment complexes, and the marmosets are somewhat used to human beings. But the monkeys are wild, and each extended family group has its own foraging territory.

Dr. Gunhold and her colleagues reported in the journal Biology Letters this month that they had tested 12 family groups, setting up a series of video monitors, each with a kind of complicated box that they called an “artificial fruit.”

All the boxes contained food. Six of the monitors showed just an unchanging image of a marmoset near a similar box. Three of them showed a marmoset opening the box by pulling a drawer, and three others a marmoset lifting a lid to get at the food.

Marmosets are very territorial and would not tolerate a strange individual on their turf, but the image of a strange marmoset on video didn’t seem to bother them.

Individual marmosets “differed in their reactions to the video,” Dr. Gunhold said. “Some were more shy, some more bold. The younger ones were more attracted to the video, perhaps because of greater curiosity.”

But, she said, the ones that watched the demonstrations were much better at getting the box open than the ones that had the placebo monitor, and they also tended to use the specific skill demonstrated, pulling the drawer open or lifting the lid.

There is more here (including video!), and for the pointer I thank Philip Wallach.

Maybe so.  Let’s hear from Mounir Karadja, Johanna Möllerström (my new colleague), and David Seim:

We study the extent to which people are misinformed about their relative position in the income distribution and the effects on preferences for redistribution of correcting faulty beliefs. We implement a tailor-made survey in Sweden and document that a vast majority of Swedes believe that they are poorer, relative to others, than they actually are. This is true across groups, but younger, poorer, less cognitively able and less educated individuals have perceptions that are further from reality. Using a second survey, we conduct an experiment by randomly informing a subsample about their true relative income position. Respondents who learn that they are richer than they thought demand less redistribution and increase their support for the Conservative party.

This result is entirely driven by prior right-of-center political preferences and not by altruism or moral values about redistribution. Moreover, the effect can be reconciled by people with political preferences to the right-of-center being more likely to view taxes as distortive and to believe that it is personal effort rather than luck that is most influential for individual economic success.

The paper (pdf) is here, and the pointer is from Gabriel Sahlgren.

Renee B. Adams, Matti Keloharju, and Samuli Knüpfer have a new paper:

This paper analyzes the role three personal traits — cognitive and non-cognitive ability, and height — play in the market for CEOs. We merge data on the traits of more than one million Swedish males, measured at age 18 in a mandatory military enlistment test, with comprehensive data on their income, education, profession, and service as a CEO of any Swedish company. We find that the traits of large-company CEOs are at par or higher than those of other high-caliber professions. For example, large-company CEOs have about the same cognitive ability, and about one-half of a standard deviation higher non-cognitive ability and height than medical doctors. Their traits compare even more favorably with those of lawyers. The traits contribute to pay in two ways. First, higher-caliber CEOs are assigned to larger companies, which tend to pay more. Second, the traits contribute to pay over and above that driven by firm size. We estimate that 27-58% of the effect of traits on pay comes from CEO’s assignment to larger companies. Our results are consistent with models where the labor market allocates higher-caliber CEOs to more productive positions.

In other words, Swedish CEOs are a pretty impressive lot.  Scott Sumner offers some related remarks on American CEOs.

toddler

Other good photos, with different subjects, are here.

Jon Hilsenrath says Bernanke deserves one, I agree.  I would gladly see a Bernanke-Woodford-Svensson prize, perhaps working in Mark Gertler too.

But for this year’s pick, due October 13, I am predicting William J. Baumol, possibly with William G. Bowen, for work on the cost-disease.  As you probably know, this hypothesis suggested that the costs of education and health care would continue to rise in relative terms, thereby creating significant economic problems.  Not a bad prediction for 1966, and of course it has become a truly important issue.

One problem is that the initial Baumol and Bowen hypothesis focused on the performing arts, rather than health care and education.  A lot of live performance is pretty robust, although not always European high culture, and furthermore the internet has proven a much closer substitute in the minds of consumers than many people had expected.  So the cost-disease argument, in the area where it was originally formulated, hasn’t panned out but rather has evolved into a kind of merit good demand — “I wish more people were paying for Mozart rather than for sports and live music in bars.”

A second problem is whether it should be Baumol or Baumol and Bowen.  Bowen was co-author on the major and initial work, but Baumol has numerous other contributions, including contestability, operations research and economics, entrepreneurship, externalities and Pigouvian taxes, portfolio theory, and even in the older literatures on money demand and also sales maximization for business firms.  One can well imagine Baumol paired with one or two other people, perhaps from industrial organization, and the cost-disease as one but not the only reason for the prize.  Or if they give it to him and Bowen, it looks more like an “economics of education” prize, with a mention of health care tacked on.

So yes, that’s my pick.  Keep in mind people, in the past I have never, ever gotten the timing of the pick right.  Not once.  But Baumol is now ninety-two, so I think this will be his year.  Of course the Bayesian will note that last year he was ninety-one.

The return to education in France?

by on September 30, 2014 at 3:34 pm in Economics, Education, Law | Permalink

Pierre Mouganie has a new paper:

In 1997, the French government put into effect a law that permanently exempted young French male citizens born after Jan 1, 1979 from mandatory military service while still requiring those born before that cutoff date to serve. This paper uses a regression discontinuity design to identify the effect of peacetime conscription on education and labor market outcomes. Results indicate that conscription eligibility induces a significant increase in years of education, which is consistent with conscription avoidance behavior. However, this increased education does not result in either an increase in graduation rates, or in employment and wages. Additional evidence shows conscription has no direct effect on earnings, suggesting that the returns to education induced by this policy was zero.

You should note of course that the “return to education you wish to do for non-draft-avoiding reasons” still may be positive or strongly positive.  Nonetheless this is an object lesson in the point that the goal is not to increase educational attainment per se, but rather good outcomes probably require “education plus some of the prerequisites and complements of education.”  The large number of unemployed engineers in some of the Arabic countries illustrate a related point.

For the pointer I thank the excellent Kevin Lewis.

It’s one thing for parents to shell out for cram schools or private tutors for their children, but parents in China’s Zhejiang province are taking it a step further. There, parents can give their own blood to earn some extra points on their child’s zhongkao, or high school entrance exam.

Four liters of donated blood will get your child one extra point; 6 liters adds two points; and 8 liters, three. One 28-year-old man on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, posted that he had surpassed the 4-liter mark, a gift to his unborn child: “[I] want to tell my future son: No worries with the high school entrance exams, Dad has already got you bonus marks!” the man said, quoted in the South China Morning Post. The policy began this July, but parents are able to take into account the blood they donated in the past. The 28-year-old had started donating when he was 18.

That is from Jeanne Kim, there is more here.

There is a new report of interest, admittedly MIT physics-specific only:

…for the first time, researchers have carried out a detailed study that shows that these classes really can teach at least as effectively as traditional classroom courses—and they found that this is true regardless of how much preparation and knowledge students start out with.

The findings have just been published in the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, in a paper by David Pritchard, MIT’s Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics, along with three other researchers at MIT and one each from Harvard University and China’s Tsinghua University.

“It’s an issue that has been very controversial,” Pritchard says. “A number of well-known educators have said there isn’t going to be much learning in MOOCs, or if there is, it will be for people who are already well-educated.”

But after thorough before-and-after testing of students taking the MITx physics class 8.MReVx (Mechanics Review) online, and similar testing of those taking the same class in its traditional form, Pritchard and his team found quite the contrary: The study showed that in the MITx course, “the amount learned is somewhat greater than in the traditional lecture-based course,” Pritchard says.

A second, more surprising finding, he says, is that those who were least prepared, as shown by their scores on pretests, “learn as well as everybody else.” That is, the amount of improvement seen “is no different for skillful people in the class”—including experienced physics teachers—”or students who were badly prepared. They all showed the same level of increase,” the study found.

For the pointer I thank Samir Varma

Sentences to ponder

by on September 24, 2014 at 11:36 am in Education | Permalink

One broker reported that parents interested in living near their boarding-school children now represented over 30 percent of her business.

There is more here.

Jeremy Waldron on Nudge

by on September 23, 2014 at 11:08 am in Books, Education, Philosophy, Political Science | Permalink

Waldron is one of my favorite contemporary philosophers, here is one bit from his NYRoB essay:

More reassuring, I think, would be a candid assessment of what might go wrong with nudging. One of Sunstein’s many books (from before his time in the White House) is entitled Worst-Case Scenarios. Could we please have something like that as a companion to Nudge?

I am afraid there is very little awareness in these books about the problem of trust. Every day we are bombarded with offers whose choice architecture is manipulated, not necessarily in our favor. The latest deal from the phone company is designed to bamboozle us, and we may well want such blandishments regulated. But it is not clear whether the regulators themselves are trustworthy. Governments don’t just make mistakes; they sometimes set out deliberately to mislead us. The mendacity of elected officials is legendary and claims on our trust and credulity have often been squandered. It is against this background that we have to consider how nudging might be abused.

The full piece is here.  By the way, there is a new Cass Sunstein book out, which I have not yet read, Valuing Life: Humanizing the Regulatory State.

The Twitter pointer is from Michael Clemens.

Hedge fund rats

by on September 23, 2014 at 2:00 am in Economics, Education | Permalink

Why should trading be the province of humans only?:

One project is Michael Marcovici’s Rat Trader. The book describes the training of laboratory rats to trade in foreign exchange and commodity futures markets. Marcovici says the rats “outperformed some of the world’s leading human fund managers.” The rats were trained to press a red or green button to give buy or sell signals, after listening to ticker tape movements represented as sounds. If they called the market right they were fed, if they called it wrong they got a small electric shock. Male and female rats performed equally well. The second generation of rattraders, cross-bred from the best performers in the first generation, appeared to have even better performance, although this is a preliminary result, according to the text. Marcovici’s plan, he writes, is to breed enough of them to set up a hedge fund.

I don’t myself like the electric shock idea, but there you go.  That is from Diane Coyle, and for the pointer I thank Michael Gibson.

Susan Dynarski writes:

Public colleges are collecting about the same revenue per student today as they were 25 years ago. In 1988, educational revenue per full-time-equivalent student at public colleges was $11,300; in 2013, it was $11,500. (These amounts are adjusted for inflation and are expressed in 2013 dollars.)

Then why is tuition up?  The answer is pretty simple:

In 1988, state legislatures gave their public colleges an average of $8,600 a student. Students contributed an additional $2,700 in tuition, which gets us to a total of $11,300. By 2013, states were kicking in just $6,100, while students were contributing $5,400; this gets us to a total of $11,500.

As far as students are concerned, public tuition has doubled. As far as public colleges are concerned, funding is flat.

The full column is here.

This is the new and fantastic book by Arthur M. Melzer and the subtitle is The Lost History of Esoteric Writing.  It is the best book I know on esoteric writing and its history and furthermore it is clear and to the point!  (I think)

Melzer starts his chapter eight with this quotation from John Toland’s eighteenth century Pantheisticon:

[Esotericism is] practiced not by the Ancients alone; for to declare the Truth, it is more in Use among the Moderns.

Here is another bit from the book:

To begin with, we need an author who, in his interpretations, is willing to follow the very un-Straussian injunction — often found on mathematics exams — “show all work.”  We need to see, once or twice, how the sausage is made.  The best writing for this purpose that I am familiar with comes from an appropriately un-Straussian source: Stanley Fish.  His “Georgics of the Mind: The Experience of Bacon’s Essays” is a brilliant and nuanced exercise in textual analysis that openly displays, at every stage of Fish’s encounter with the text, what he thinks and why he thinks it.

…Another excellent and highly communicative reader…is Robert Connor.  His Thucydides is a very sensitive reading of Thucydides’s great history, a reading openly arrived at and clearly conveyed.  In conjunction with this, one should also read Clifford Orwin’s superb The Humanity of Thucydides.

Recommended.