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Wished I were clever enough to write a post combining those topics, here are a few papers that caught my eye:

  1. Toilets CAN work. Lest you think that is a trite observation, note that one of the most puzzling aspects of development and global charity for decades has been the understanding of the importance of good sanitation, the seeming inexpensive approaches to dealing with it, and the frustrating lack of success in rolling out programs. Disclaimer: I was a Lord Jeff with Dr. Guiteras.
  2. What do economists know about the effectiveness of school voucher programs? I like the approach here, appears to have the appropriate level of humility and evenhandedness – fodder for all sides of the “debate” to consider, should they care. Disclaimer: Dr. Urquiola was a professor of mine (albeit briefly) when I was a Big Red student.
  3. Major capital projects at K12 schools do not generate improvements in student outcomes. While the result is unsurprising, I would have bet that selection effects and unobservables would have generated strong positive correlations in the levels, though not the changes. Disclaimer: my biases may have led my eye to focus more on this paper than otherwise.
  4. What is the optimal structure of progressive taxation and education subsidies? Long-time readers know of my distaste for estimates of “optimal” social policy – simply because there are many goals. In any case, this seems to be a case for increased higher education funding. Note that if this were the path to go down, the form of subsidy clearly matters. Two more points. First, I wished policymakers would focus much harder on the marginal tax “rates” implicit in our various social programs. Second, I think the focus on “higher education” as it exists is probably not right. Disclaimer: note my own and the authors’ obvious conflicts of interests as employees in the field.

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