Cognitive skills are more relevant in explaining earnings,
socio-emotional skills in determining labor supply and schooling
Common proxies, such as years of education, have been shown to
be ineffective at capturing cross-country differences in skills acquisition, as well as the
role they play in the labor market. A large body of research shows that direct measures of
skills, in particular cognitive and socio-emotional ones, provide more adequate estimations of
individuals’ differences in potential productive capacity than the quantity of education they
receive. Evidence shows that cognitive skills in particular are quite relevant to explain
wages, while socio-emotional skills are more associated with labor force and education
Standardized testing can create incentives to
manipulate test results and generate misleading indicators for public
Standardized testing has become the accepted
means of measuring a school’s quality. However, the associated rise in
test-based accountability creates incentives for schools, teachers, and
students to manipulate test scores. Illicit behavior may also occur in
institutional settings where performance standards are weak. These issues
are important because inaccurate measurement of student achievement leads to
poor or ineffective policy conclusions. The consequences of mismeasured
student achievement for policy conclusions have been documented in many
institutional contexts in Europe and North America, and guidelines can be
devised for the future.
While mostly missing their primary objectives, adult
literacy programs can still improve key socio-economic outcomes
In addition to the traditional education system
targeting children and youth, one potentially important vehicle to improve
literacy and numeracy skills is adult literacy programs (ALPs). In many
developing countries, however, these programs do not seem to achieve these
hoped for, ex ante, objectives and have therefore received less attention,
if not been largely abandoned, in recent years. But, evidence shows that
ALPs do affect other important socio-economic outcomes such as health,
household income, and labor market participation by enhancing participants’
health knowledge and income-generating activities.
Teacher effectiveness has a dramatic effect on
student outcomes—how can it be increased?
Teacher effectiveness is the most important
component of the education process within schools for pupil attainment. One
estimate suggests that, in the US, replacing the least effective 8% of
teachers with average teachers has a present value of $100 trillion.
Researchers have a reasonable understanding of how to measure teacher
effectiveness; but the next step, understanding the best ways to raise it,
is where the research frontier now lies. Two areas in particular appear to
hold the greatest promise: reforming hiring practices and contracts, and
reforming teacher training and development.
The success of universal preschool education depends crucially
on the policy parameters and specific country context
Since the 1970s, many countries have established free or highly
subsidized education for all preschool children in the hope of improving children’s learning
and socio-economic life chances and encouraging mothers to join the labor force. Evaluations
reveal that these policies can increase maternal employment in the short term and may continue
to do so even after the child is no longer in preschool by enabling mothers to gain more job
skills and increase their attachment to the labor force. However, their effectiveness depends
on the policy design, the country context, and the characteristics of mothers of
This is a revision, version 2, revising author.
The role of social interactions in modifying individual behavior is central to many fields of social science. In education, one essential aspect is that “good” peers can potentially improve students’ academic achievement, career choices, or labor market outcomes later in life. Indeed, evidence suggests that good peers are important in raising student attainment, both in compulsory schooling and university. Interventions that change the ability group composition in ways that improve student educational outcomes without exacerbating inequality therefore offer a promising basis for education policies.
This is a revision, version 3.
This is a revision, version 3. Most OECD countries spend substantially more on maternity leave
schemes than on early childcare. However, given high tax burdens and rapidly aging
populations, female labor force participation is critically needed. Moreover, it is important
to know whether the main beneficiaries, the children themselves, reap more benefits from one
or the other in the long term. The first cohorts exposed to the introduction or extension of
maternity/paternity leave schemes and subsidized childcare programs have now completed
education and entered the labor market, allowing an investigation of these programs’ long-term
Generous parental leave and affordable,
high-quality childcare can foster children’s abilities
The economic and psychological literatures have
demonstrated that early investments (private and public) in children can
significantly increase cognitive outcomes in the short and long term and
contribute to success later in life. One of the most important of these
inputs is maternal time. Women’s participation in the labor market has risen
rapidly in most countries, implying that mothers spend less time with their
children and that families rely more on external sources of childcare. This
trend has raised concerns, and an intense debate in several countries has
focused on the effectiveness of childcare policies.