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Ludger Woessmann

Ludger Woessmann is Professor of Economics at the University of Munich and Director of the Ifo Center for the Economics of Education and Innovation. Hanushek and Woessmann are coauthors (with Paul E. Peterson) of Endangering Prosperity: A Global View of the American School.

Titles by This Author

Education and the Economics of Growth

In this book Eric Hanushek and Ludger Woessmann make a simple, central claim, developed with rigorous theoretical and empirical support: knowledge is the key to a country’s development. Of course, every country acknowledges the importance of developing human capital, but Hanushek and Woessmann argue that message has become distorted, with politicians and researchers concentrating not on valued skills but on proxies for them. The common focus is on school attainment, although time in school provides a very misleading picture of how skills enter into development. Hanushek and Woessmann contend that the cognitive skills of the population—which they term the “knowledge capital” of a nation—are essential to long-run prosperity.

Hanushek and Woessmann subject their hypotheses about the relationship between cognitive skills (as consistently measured by international student assessments) and economic growth to a series of tests, including alternate specifications, different subsets of countries, and econometric analysis of causal interpretations. They find that their main results are remarkably robust, and equally applicable to developing and developed countries. They demonstrate, for example, that the “Latin American growth puzzle” and the “East Asian miracle” can be explained by these regions’ knowledge capital. Turning to the policy implications of their argument, they call for an education system that develops effective accountability, promotes choice and competition, and provides direct rewards for good performance.

Titles by This Editor

Governments around the world are deeply divided about the proper role of industrial policy, with some politicians arguing for hands-off governance and others supporting government intervention to promote “national champions”-- firms that receive government support for both political and economic reasons. In this volume, prominent economists present the pros and cons of government support for national champions. The contributors use the rigor of economic models in their studies, offering a quantitative perspective that complements and extends existing qualitative studies, and focus on issues emerging from the European Union’s substantial degree of market integration.
Many arguments in favor of champions-promoting policies are made in a dynamic context, so the book first presents chapters that take a dynamic economy view, then presents chapters that examine the political economy of the decision process, and finally, offers “classical” static equilibrium arguments. The richness of the different models provides a deeper understanding of industrial policy than could any model alone. What becomes clear from these different perspectives nevertheless is that it is difficult to make a general case in favor of policies promoting national champions on purely economic grounds and that these policies are best understood in political terms.

Much educational research today is focused on assessing reforms that are intended to create equal opportunity for all students. Many current policies aim at concentrating extra resources on the disadvantaged. The state-of-the-art research in Schools and the Equal Opportunity Problem suggests, however, that even sizeable differential spending on the disadvantaged will not yield an equality of results. In this CESifo volume, leading scholars from the United States and Europe use the tools of economics to assess the outcome of efforts to solve education’s equal opportunity problem in a range of countries, including the United States, Britain, Germany, Sweden, and Italy.The evidence shows some routes for advancement--testing with high performance standards, for example, and well-designed school choice--but also raises considerable doubts about whether many current school policies are effective in dramatically altering the opportunity structure. The evidence presented also calls into question the idea that causal peer effects are very strong. The contributors examine such topics as the link between education and parental income, the problematic past research on peer effects, tracking, the distribution of educational outcomes, human capital policy aimed at disadvantaged students, and private/public school choice.The research suggests that achieving universal primary and secondary education is both urgently needed and feasible. Will the international community commit the necessary economic, human, and political resources? The challenge, say the editors, is "as inspiring and formidable . . . as any extraterrestrial adventures--and far more likely to enrich and improve life on earth."