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Fernando Saltiel, Miguel Sarzosa and Sergio Urzúa

Abilities matter. This chapter reviews the nature of cognitive and socio-emotional abilities and examines their importance in the development of successful lives. The text highlights the evidence documenting the causal association between abilities and labour market outcomes. It introduces an occupational tasks framework and shows how the interaction of abilities, skills and tasks is important for understanding labour market disparities. It concludes with policy recommendations based on interventions aimed at improving skills and future avenues for this research agenda.

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Henry M. Levin and Clive R. Belfield

Cost-effectiveness analysis is a common tool for ascertaining the efficiency of investment, but it has only rarely been applied to education. This chapter begins by defining cost-effectiveness and addressing the rationale for using cost-effectiveness in education. It proceeds to issues in measuring educational effectiveness using a common metric across interventions. It then devotes considerable attention to how to apply the concept of opportunity cost to cost measurement in education using the ingredients method, which relies on specifying the required resources and their market or shadow prices. It concludes with a sampling of cost-effectiveness studies devoted to different educational topics: teacher selection, dropout prevention, early reading achievement and multiple reforms. The article concludes with future directions.

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Tommaso Agasisti and Alex J. Bowers

In this chapter, we outline the importance of data usage for improving policymaking (at the system level), management of educational institutions and pedagogical approaches in the classroom. We illustrate how traditional data analyses are becoming gradually substituted by more sophisticated forms of analytics, and we provide a classification for these recent movements (in particular learning analytics, academic analytics and educational data mining). After having illustrated some examples of recent applications, we warn against potential risks of inadequate analytics in education, and list a number of barriers that impede the widespread application of better data use. As implications, we call for a development of a more robust professional role of data scientists applied to education, with the aim of sustaining and reinforcing a positive data-driven approach to decision making in the educational field.

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Fengliang Li

Distance education in a variety of forms has a long history and the number of students enrolled has become enormous. But, compared with studies of traditional face-to-face education, the studies on economics of distance education are rather fewer and have not attracted much attention from the scholars of the economics of education. This chapter introduces and analyses the existing empirical studies on the economics of distance education from the perspectives of cost, efficiency, the private and social benefits, social capital and dropout. The empirical results support that distance education has its own distinctive features, such as cost advantages and economies of scale and scope, the separation of teachers and learners, the separation among learners, social capital disadvantages and high dropout rate. Meanwhile, the empirical results show that like traditional face-to-face education, distance education can not only bring significant private benefits but also a series of social benefits and social capital can improve distance education learners’ performance and benefits. Finally, with the development of the Internet and information technology, especially the explosive growth of MOOCs, this chapter predicts that distance education will become a common approach to study for ordinary people in the near future. Then this chapter offers some prospects and suggestions referring to studies of the economics of distance education in the future.

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Abigail McKnight

This chapter reviews the evidence on the role education plays in determining social mobility. It begins by examining how education has been incorporated into theoretical models of social mobility. It reviews the evidence on the relationship between family background, educational attainment and social mobility. It examines findings from the developing literature on the role of non-cognitive skills. Finally, the chapter examines research looking at barriers to increasing social mobility through education policy.

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Jack Britton and Anna Vignoles

Globally more is being spent on education than ever before. Understanding which educational inputs are most important for achievement is essential for improving efficiency of that spending. In this chapter, we review the literature that has used the education production function to model the relationship between educational inputs such as genetics, parental investments, school type, teacher quality and school resources, and educational outputs. We summarise the evidence from key studies that have produced credible estimates of the relationship between inputs and a variety of these different education and labour market outcomes. We conclude with some insights into potential avenues for future research.

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Carla Haelermans and Joris Ghysels

This chapter provides an overview of the economic literature on the effectiveness of interventions aimed at improving student performance that take place within the class or school setting. We look at effects of ICT, traditional learning materials and study skills such as meta-cognition and feedback. Overall, the evidence of the effects of didactic interventions in schools and in the classroom is mixed. Effects of ICT are mostly found in developing countries and for mathematics, whereas effects of traditional learning methods are mixed and mostly seem to depend on the teacher. Effects of interventions on study skills are mostly positive, although causal claims are questionable for most studies, except for some experimental studies on the effect of using digital testing and feedback as information providing instruments. For all the interventions discussed in this chapter it holds that the design of the intervention is of large importance to the effect that is (not) found.

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Nicholas Barr

The chapter sets out a strategy for financing post-compulsory education in pursuit of quality (better), access (wider) and size (large enough to meet growing demand for skills) particularly relevant for European countries facing fiscal constraints and mostly with only limited mechanisms for cost sharing, and the USA, which has a badly designed system. The chapter sets out a series of principles including cost-sharing, insurance, fiscal parsimony of loan design and a continuing role for government. Subsequent discussion explains some common analytical errors. The policy core of the chapter is a strategy with four elements (a) tuition fees as a complement to taxpayer finance; (b) regulation, including robust quality assurance; (c) income-contingent loans to help students address credit constraints and (d) policies to address impediments to participation that arise earlier in the system. Evidence from reforms in England in 2006 provides empirical support for the strategy. A concluding section maps out some unfinished business.

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Edited by Geraint Johnes, Jill Johnes, Tommaso Agasisti and Laura López-Torres

This Handbook provides a comprehensive overview of the modern economics of education literature, bringing together a series of original contributions by globally renowned experts in their fields. Covering a wide variety of topics, each chapter assesses the most recent research with an emphasis on skills, evaluation and data analytics.
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Geraint Johnes, Jill Johnes and Laura López-Torres

The evaluation of the returns to investments in human capital has been at the core of the economics of education since the seminal work of Theodore Schultz published in 1961. The most significant methodological advances have come in parallel with more general developments in applied microeconometrics, such as the particular interest in issues of causality and unobserved heterogeneity. The new empirical findings document a widespread decline in rates of return to education over time. In this chapter we review some developments and present new international comparative results on the heterogeneity of returns to education. Apart from reviewing endogeneity and heterogeneity issues, we also pay attention to the main findings on return to early years education and returns to overeducation.