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Ph.D. Course Econometric Evaluation of Education Policies (Sommersemester 2012)

Lecturers: Prof. Dr. Ludger Wößmann and Dr. Guido Schwerdt

Ph.D. course, open for advanced Master students

Monday 4-6 pm (Room D Z005), Wednesday 2-4 pm (Professor-Huber-Platz 2, Lehrturm V005).

6 ETCS; creditable to MSc optional modules (WP/OM) Applied Economics Analysis and Empirical Economics (OM 4), Public Economics (OM 5), Economic Research (OM 6), and Economic Research and Public Economics (OM 7)

Expected preconditions: Econometrics knowledge at level of MSc course; Experience in working with Stata; Willingness to conduct own empirical research


This Ph.D. course, which is open for advanced Master students, is not a traditional lecture course, but rather a reading-&-paper course. The main part of the course is that each participant develops her/his own applied paper project, and the main course requirement is not a traditional exam, but instead a term paper that should look like the first draft of a small empirical paper, plus a presentation.

The course is devised to ensure that participants learn about education policy, about evaluation methods, and about (the reality of) how to do applied research. At the same time, it tries to convey the enjoyment of doing economic research and requires participants to be creative and productive. Even though it is fun to do sound research, it also requires (a lot of) work; thus, participants are expected to work on the topic throughout the semester, not just in preparing an exam.

After a brief introduction on research methods for empirical identification and on selected hot topics in the economics of education, the main part of the course consists of sessions to discuss papers that everyone has read in advance and of sessions where everybody presents and discusses his/her ongoing paper project, new ideas and practical problems that turn up while working on it. The specific topics covered in the course will partly be endogenous to the specific interests expressed by participants.


Course outline:

1. Introduction to the Course

1.1 The idea of this course

1.2 Reading classes

1.3 Project presentations

1.4 A paper as the outcome


2. Introduction to the Topic

2.1 Topics in the economics of education

2.2 Why an “economics” of education policy?

2.3 The econometrics of policy evaluation

2.4 Measuring educational outcomes


3. “Hot Topics” and Open Questions

3.1 Educational production, class-size effects, funding

3.2 Teacher quality

3.3 Performance incentives

3.4. Reforms of school systems: Accountability and autonomy

3.5 Choice and competition

3.6 Intergenerational mobility, family effects

3.7 Peer effects

3.8 Tracking

3.9 Early childhood education programs

3.10 Non-cognitive skills

3.11 Tuition fees and financial aid for universities

3.12 Vocational education, training, and adult education


4. Econometric Methods for Causal Evaluation of Education Policies

4.1 Causal inference from observational data

    4.1.1 The problem of endogeneity

    4.1.2 Controlling for observables (incl. matching)

    4.1.3 Controlled randomized experiments

    4.1.4 Oversubscribed lotteries

    4.1.5  “Natural” or “quasi” experiments

4.2 Instrumental variables (IV)

4.3 Regression discontinuity (RD)

4.4 Differences-in-differences (DiD)

4.5 Fixed effects (FE)


5. Some Remarks on “How to Write a Paper”


6. Papers and Projects


Slides for sections 1-3 [PDF, 254 KB, passwortgeschützt]

Slides for section 4 [PDF, 718 KB, passwortgeschützt]

More slides for section 4 [PDF, 2 MB, passwortgeschützt]

Do-Files IV [ZIP, 6 KB, passwortgeschützt]

Reading list [PDF, 246 KB, passwortgeschützt]

Reading assignments [ZIP, 4684 KB, passwortgeschützt]



Reading assignments:

25 April

Abdulkadiroglu, Atila, Joshua Angrist, Susan Dynarski, Thomas J. Kane, Parag Pathak (2011). Accountability and Flexibility in Public Schools: Evidence from Boston’s Charters and Pilots. Quarterly Journal of Economics 126 (2): 699-748.

2 May

West, Martin R., Ludger Woessmann (2010). ‘Every Catholic Child in a Catholic School’: Historical Resistance to State Schooling, Contemporary School Competition, and Student Achievement across Countries. Economic Journal 120 (546): F229-F255.

9 May

Jacob, Brian A., Lars Lefgren (2009). The Effect of Grade Retention on High School Completion. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 1 (3): 33-58.

16 May

Bauernschuster, Stefan, Martin Schlotter (2012). Public Childcare and Mothers`Labor Supply: Evidence from Two Quasi-Experiments. Mimeo, Ifo Institute at the University of Munich.

23 May

Schwerdt, Guido, Amelie C. Wuppermann (2011). Is Traditional Teaching really all that Bad? A Within-Student Between-Subject Approach. Economics of Education Review 30 (2): 365-379.

6 June

Parey, Matthias, Fabian Waldinger (2011). Studying Abroad and the Effect on International Labour Market Mobility: Evidence from the Introduction of ERASMUS. Economic Journal 121 (551): 194-222.

13 June

Felfe, Christina, Rafael Lalive (2011). How Does Early Child Care affect Child Development? Mimeo, University of St. Gallen.

20 June

Ludwig, Jens, Douglas L. Miller (2007). Does Head Start Improve Children's Life Chances? Evi-dence from a Regression Discontinuity Design. Quarterly Journal of Economics 122 (1): 159-208.

27 June

Rothstein, Jesse (2010). Teacher Quality in Educational Production: Tracking, Decay, and Stu-dent Achievement. Quarterly Journal of Economics 125 (1): 175-214.

4 July

Chetty, Raj, John N. Friedman, Nathaniel Hilger, Emmanuel Saez, Diane Whitmore Schanzen-bach, Danny Yagan (2011). How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings? Evidence from Project Star. Quarterly Journal of Economics 126 (4): 1593-1660.