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

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.

Socializing with friends at work: A look into the black box of non-cognitive skills: Guest post by Sangyoon Park

This is the fifth in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.
Do people perform better when working with friends or do their friends distract them from doing their job well? Does the effect depend on their personality traits? I investigate these questions in the context of a seafood-processing plant in Vietnam in which several workers perform the identical task – cleaning and filleting fish -- at 4-person tables in a processing room. I collaborated with the management to design and implement a field experiment in which employees were randomly assigned to positions within the room each day. I use random variation in a worker’s proximity to friends to estimate the effect of working with friends on job performance. Before the experiment, I administered a baseline survey to collect information on employees’ friendship ties and personality characteristics. I find that employees are less productive when working with friends but only when friends are close enough to socialize with each other. I also find that personality traits matter and explain a significant portion of individual differences in socializing behaviors at work. Conversely, socializing with friends explains a large portion of why workers with certain personality traits – notably, conscientiousness – are more productive workers.