Three new economics papers offer interesting findings on important facets of education policy.
Increasing Time to Baccalaureate Degree in the United States by John Bound, Michael Lovenheim, Sarah Turner
Time to completion of the baccalaureate degree has increased markedly in the United States over the last three decades, even as the wage premium for college graduates has continued to rise. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of the High School Class of 1972 and the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988, we show that the increase in time to degree is localized among those who begin their postsecondary education at public colleges outside the most selective universities. In addition, we find evidence that the increases in time to degree were more marked amongst low income students. We consider several potential explanations for these trends. First, we find no evidence that changes in the college preparedness or the demographic composition of degree recipients can account for the observed increases. Instead, our results suggest that declines in collegiate resources in the less-selective public sector increased time to degree. Furthermore, we present evidence of increased hours of employment among students, which is consistent with students working more to meet rising college costs and likely increases time to degree by crowding out time spent on academic pursuits.
Education Policy and Crime by Lance Lochner
This paper discusses the relationship between education and crime from an economic perspective, developing a human capital-based model that sheds light on key ways in which early childhood programs and policies that encourage schooling may affect both juvenile and adult crime. The paper first discusses evidence on the effects of educational attainment, school quality, and school enrollment on crime. Next, the paper discusses evidence on the crime reduction effects of preschool programs like Perry Preschool and Head Start, school-age programs that emphasize social and emotional development, and job training programs for low-skill adolescents and young adults. Finally, the paper concludes with a broad discussion of education policy and its potential role as a crime-fighting strategy.
Financial Incentives and Student Achievement: Evidence from Randomized Trials by Roland G. Fryer
This paper describes a series of school-based randomized trials in over 250 urban schools designed to test the impact of financial incentives on student achievement. In stark contrast to simple economic models, our results suggest that student incentives increase achievement when the rewards are given for inputs to the educational production function, but incentives tied to output are not effective. Relative to popular education reforms of the past few decades, student incentives based on inputs produce similar gains in achievement at lower costs. Qualitative data suggest that incentives for inputs may be more effective because students do not know the educational production function, and thus have little clue how to turn their excitement about rewards into achievement. Several other models, including lack of self-control, complementary inputs in production, or the unpredictability of outputs, are also consistent with the experimental data.
I’m a tad distracted by other things at present, so apologies in advance for the fact that all three links are to the (gated) NBER website. Perhaps some kind soul will post ungated links in comments. The Fryer research is also in the latest issue of Time Magazine.