Empirical Essays on Economics of Education and Labour Economics
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This Ph.D. thesis consists of three essays on Labour Economics and the Economics of Education, having the goal of contributing to the scientific discussion and shed new light on a number of empirical questions. The remaining of the chapter presents a general motivation for the study, together with the main findings and policy implications, which are fully developed throughout the thesis. Motivation There is an ongoing debate in Economics of Education on the merits and drawbacks of school choice as opposed to a community-based model, where schools only serve the local neighbourhood. Advocates of school choice base their arguments on the economic theory of market efficiency. First, a more market oriented education system should improve the match between pupils and schools. In this sense, allowing families to select schools on the basis of their preferences and teaching needs should result in an improvement in the average academic achievement. Moreover, increased choice should help breaking the link between residential and school segregation induced by a community-based model, with wealthier families living in more affluent neighbourhoods also attending the best schools. The benefits of choice should be even more pronounced for low income children who are typically segregated in poor neighbourhoods served by low quality schools (Gibbons et al., 2008). Second, school choice is believed to have beneficial effects also on school performance. Indeed, community-based schools operate in an almost monopolistic market, implying little incentives to innovate and improve teaching performance. In a world 1 Introduction where parents have strong preferences for quality, a choice based model would increase competition among schools with the ultimate result of boosting performance (Hastings et al., 2005; Burgess et al., 2009; Gibbons and Silva, 2011). On the other hand, scholars in favour of a community-school model claim that teachers are more likely to perform well in a more stable environment with relatively low turnover. Moreover, greater choice would replace the link between neighbourhood and school segregation with sorting across schools on the basis of family background characteristics. In this sense, they advocate that it would be more desirable to stick to a community-based model and improve the performance of lower quality schools via redistribution of resources. The first two chapters of this thesis aim at shading additional light on the advantages and disadvantages of school choice models. Specifically, I explore the effects of a programme introduced in the UK, which aimed at increasing choice among low income families, on both students’ choices and school behaviour. The third chapter addresses a different empirical question. Typically, when workers are rewarded on the basis of team effort the possibility arises that individuals free ride. However, past literature emphasised the importance of externalities when groups of agents are concerned. Specifically, group effects such as social pressure or shame may be strong enough to completely offset free riding (Kandel and Lazear, 1992; Mas and Moretti, 2009). Using Italian social security data on private sector employees, the last chapter contributes to the existing literature by exploring externalities in workers’ shirking, which I recover from information on sick leave episodes.
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