Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Race Between Education and Technology

The ASET Book club will discuss The Race Between Education and Technology on December 6, 2012.

At our meeting we will also schedule 2013 meetings days and books. (See end of this post.

Possible questions for our discussion:

1. Daron Acemoglu, author of a previous ASET book club read - Why Nations Fail? Describes Goldin and Katz’s The Race between Education and Technology is a monumental achievement that supplies a unified framework for interpreting how the demand and supply of human capital have shaped the distribution of earnings in the U.S. labor market over the 20th century. What did you learn about the supply of labor from reading this book? In what ways did this information about the supply of labor challenge your previously held views or beliefs about education?

2. Goldin and Katz describe an evolution (deterioration) in the supply side of the labor market beginning in 1970? How convincing was their argument – do you view that these is in fact a deterioration and if so, how persuasive is the author’s explanation for this change?

3. In the current issue of The Journal of Economic Perspectives Martin West summarizes “Global Lessons for Improving U.S. Education.” “. . . Rigorous studies confirm that students in countries that for historical reasons have a larger share of students in private schools perform at higher levels on international assessments while spending less on primary and secondary education.. . . In addition, the achievement gap between socioeconomically disadvantaged and advantaged students is reduced in countries in which private schools receive more government funds. . . .”

The authors find a similar outcome as they describe the virtues of the American education system (130+) and contrast American higher education with other countries (last paragraph of page 283) with the observation: “the enormous competition between and within the public and private sectors, and its laissez faire orientation.” (see page 64 for example) What other evidence to you find for this within the text and your reading and how does this evidence challenge or contradict your experience as an educator. How might your resolve any conflict between your reading of the book and your beliefs.

4. Where you surprised by the finding that historically “the supply of quality teachers was extremely elastic”(240)? Might this still be the case and account for the status of teaching wages?

5. Goldin and Katz write: “Education was also a form of insurance . . . (192). How might this account for the historic and contemporary incentives in the labor market, specifically the supply side?

6. What insight did the analysis of technology skill complementarity (121) offer and did this insight broaden your understanding of the demand for labor over the period of this economic history?

7. What is your view of the contention: “Two factors appear to be holding back the educational attainment of American youth: college readiness and finances”(347)?

8. Relative demand and relative supply of labor analysis – “Technology has been racing ahead of education in recent years because educational growth has been sluggish, not because skill biased educational change has accelerated.”(303). Did you find this conclusion surprising and, more importantly, does this provide a satisfactory explanation for the rising college wage premium?

Claudia Goldin speaking on the book.

Reviews of the book -

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