The NBER Reporter 2019 Number 4: Books

Productivity in Higher Education

Caroline M. Hoxby and Kevin Stange, editors

     How do the benefits of higher education compare with its costs, and how does this comparison vary across individuals and institutions? These questions are fundamental to quantifying the productivity of the education sector. Productivity in Higher Education uses rich and novel administrative data, modern econometric methods, and deep institutional understanding to explore productivity issues in the education sector. The authors examine the returns to undergraduate education, differences in costs by major, the productivity of for-profit schools, the productivity of various types of faculty, the effects of online education on the higher education market, and the ways in which the productivity of different institutions responds to market forces. The analyses recognize five key challenges to assessing productivity in higher education: the potential for multiple student outcomes in terms of skills, earnings, invention, and employment; the fact that colleges and universities are "multiproduct" firms that conduct varied activities across many domains; the fact that students select which school to attend based in part on their aptitude; the difficulty of attributing outcomes to individual institutions when students attend more than one; and the possibility that some of the benefits of higher education may arise from the system as a whole rather than from a single institution. The findings and the approaches illustrated can facilitate decision-making processes in higher education.

Social Security Programs and Retirement around the World:

Working Longer

Courtney C. Coile, Kevin Milligan, and David A. Wise, editors

     Developed countries during the last two decades have experienced a long-term decline in men¬ís labor force participation at older ages, followed by a more recent pattern of sharply rising participation rates. Participation rates for women at older ages also have been rising. What explains the trend reversal for men, the evolving pattern for women, and the differences in these trends across countries? The answers to these questions are pivotal as countries seek solutions to the fiscal and retirement security challenges posed by longer lifespans. This eighth volume of the International Social Security project, which compares the social security and retirement experiences of 12 developed countries, documents trends in participation and employment, and explores reasons for the rising participation rates of older workers. The chapters use a common template for analysis which facilitates comparison of results across countries. Using within-country natural experiments and cross-country comparisons, the researchers study the impact of improving health and education, changes in the occupation mix, the retirement incentives of social security programs, and the emergence of women in the workplace. The findings suggest that social security reforms and other factors such as the movement of women into the labor force have played an important role in labor force participation trends.

Innovation Policy and the Economy, volume 20

Josh Lerner and Scott Stern, editors

     The chapters in this 20th volume of Innovation Policy and the Economy present research on the interactions among public policy, the innovation process, and the economy. One explores changes in the ability of the US to attract talented foreign workers and the role of sponsoring institutions in shaping immigration policy. Another explains how the division of innovative labor between research universities and corporate labs affected productivity growth and the transformation of knowledge into new products and processes. A third reviews a variety of innovation policies and their performance in the pharmaceutical sector. Next is a chapter on the effects of competition policy on innovation, "creative destruction," and economic growth. A fifth chapter focuses on how experimental policy design can be a cost-effective way to attain program goals. The last chapter examines geographic disparities in innovation, joblessness, and technological dynamism, and studies how reallocation of grants and geographically targeted entrepreneurship policy could affect labor supply and welfare.

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