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Do Sociable or Higher-Achieving Peers Matter? Guest post by Román Andrés Zárate

Development Impact Guest Blogger's picture

This is the nineteenth in this year's series of posts by PhD students on the job market.

While sociable peers increase your social skills, higher-achieving peers do not improve your academic performance. That is the main conclusion of my job market paper.
As the world bends closer towards automation, social skills take a lead role on individuals' well-being and labor market success. According to Deming (2017), between 1980 and 2012, jobs demanding high levels of social interaction grew by nearly 12 percentage points as a share of the U.S. labor force. Similarly, a recent column by the Washington Post highlights the importance of social skills for team productivity and employment opportunities. It describes the results of Google’s Project Aristotle, which concludes that the best teams at Google exhibit high levels of soft skills, and particularly social skills. These include emotional safety, equality, generosity, curiosity towards the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence
While there is extensive research on policies that improve academic learning, little is known about how social skills form. My job market paper addresses this challenge. I present the results of a large-scale field experiment at boarding schools in Peru. The intervention was designed to estimate social and cognitive peer effects. While other studies have exploited random assignment to dormitories and classrooms, I use a novel experimental design to generate large variation in peer skills. Specifically, I assign students to two cross-randomized treatments in the allocation to beds in a dormitory: (1) less or more sociable peers, and (2) lower- or higher-achieving peers. This design surmounts many of the challenges with traditional approaches to the study of peer effects (Manski, 1993; Angrist, 2014; Caeyers and Fafchamps, 2016).

Learning more with every year? Estimating the productivity of schooling in developing countries: Guest post by Abhijeet Singh

Development Impact Guest Blogger's picture

This is the fourteenth in our series of job market posts this year. 

Despite massive increases in school enrolment in developing countries, learning levels have lagged behind. But the range in average student achievement is large: In the 2012 PISA assessment (of 15-year-olds), Vietnamese students got higher scores than those in the US and the UK, but Peru ranked last (OECD 2012). The magnitude of the gap between these two developing countries was 1.4 standard deviations (SD); for comparison the difference between the US and Finland was 0.38SD.
My job market paper answers the question of how much of this gap reflects differences in the productivity of the schooling systems, as opposed to other factors such as nutrition, early childhood shocks, or endowments – a critical policy question relevant to the substantial education spending around the world.

Poverty Reduction: Sorting Through the Hype

Berk Ozler's picture
After seeing PowerPoint slides of the preliminary findings over the course of more than a year, it’s nice to be able to report that the six-country study that is evaluating the “ultra-poor graduation” approach (originally associated with BRAC) is finally out.