While most effects are positive, they tend to be
modest and fade over time—in addition, some mentoring programs can
Mentoring programs such as Big Brothers Big
Sisters of America have been providing positive role models and building
social skills for more than a century. However, most formal mentoring
programs are relatively novel and researchers have only recently begun to
rigorously evaluate their impact on changing at-risk youth’s perspectives
and providing opportunities for them to achieve better life outcomes. While
a variety of mentoring and counseling programs have emerged around the world
in recent years, knowledge of their effectiveness remains incomplete.
Teenage childbearing is less a cause of inferior
labor market outcomes for women than a marker of other social problems in a
It is not difficult to find statistics showing
that teenage childbearing is associated with poor labor market outcomes,
but why is this the case? Does having a child as a teenager genuinely affect
a woman’s economic potential—or is it simply a marker of problems she might
already be facing as a result of her social and family background? The
answer to this question has important implications for policy measures
that could be taken to improve women’s lives.
What are the implications of childcare subsidies
for care quality, family well-being, and child development?
Most public expenditure on childcare in the US is made through a federal program, the Child Care and Development Fund
(CCDF), established as part of landmark welfare reform legislation in 1996.
The main goal of the reform was to increase employment and reduce welfare
dependence among low-income families. Childcare subsidies have been
effective in enabling parents to work, but apparently at some cost to the
well-being of parents and children.
The global fight against child labor might be
better served by focusing less on existing laws and more on implementation
Regulation of the minimum age of employment is
the dominant tool used to combat child labor globally. If enforced, these
regulations can change the types of work in which children participate, but
minimum age regulations are not a useful tool to promote education. Despite
their nearly universal adoption, recent research for 59 developing countries
finds little evidence that these regulations influence child time allocation
in a meaningful way. Going forward, coordinating compulsory schooling laws
and minimum age of employment regulations may help maximize the joint
influence of these regulations on child time allocation, but these
regulations should not be the focus of the global fight against child
Knowing the real cost of children is important for crafting better economic policy
The cost of children is a critical parameter
used in determining many economic policies. For instance, correctly setting
the tax deduction for families with children requires assessing the true
household cost of children. Evaluating child poverty at the individual level
requires making a clear distinction between the share of family resources
received by children and that received by parents. The standard ad hoc
measures (equivalence scales) used in official publications to measure the
cost of children are arbitrary and are not informed by any economic theory.
However, economists have developed methods that are grounded in economic
theory and can replace ad hoc measures.
Generous parental leave and affordable,
high-quality childcare can foster children’s abilities
The economic and psychological literatures have
demonstrated that early investments (private and public) in children can
significantly increase cognitive outcomes in the short and long term and
contribute to success later in life. One of the most important of these
inputs is maternal time. Women’s participation in the labor market has risen
rapidly in most countries, implying that mothers spend less time with their
children and that families rely more on external sources of childcare. This
trend has raised concerns, and an intense debate in several countries has
focused on the effectiveness of childcare policies.
Shortening secondary school duration may
increase the skilled workforce in aging societies
The main goal of secondary school education in
developed countries is to prepare students for higher education and the
labor market. That demands high investments in study duration and
specialized fields to meet rising skill requirements. However, these demands
for more education are in opposition to calls for early entry to the labor
market, to lengthen working lives to meet the rising costs associated with
an aging population and to enable the intergenerational transfer of skills.
One way to lengthen working lives is to shorten the duration of secondary
school, an option recently implemented in Canada and Germany. The empirical
evidence shows mixed effects.
Delaying secondary school start times can be a
cost-effective policy to improve students’ grades and test scores
The combination of changing sleep patterns in
adolescence and early school start times leaves secondary school classrooms
filled with sleep-deprived students. Evidence is growing that having
adolescents start school later in the morning improves grades and emotional
well-being, and even reduces car accidents. Opponents cite costly
adjustments to bussing schedules and decreased time after school for jobs,
sports, or other activities as reasons to retain the status quo. While
changing school start times is not a costless policy, it is one of the
easiest to implement and least expensive ways of improving academic
Smaller classes are often associated with
increased achievement, but the evidence is far from universal
Numerous economic studies have considered the
relationship between class size and student achievement, the majority of
which have focused on elementary schools in the US and Europe. While the
general finding is that smaller classes are associated with increased
student achievement, a few high-quality studies find no relationship.
Further, empirical research on the costs and benefits of smaller classes
concludes that other education policies, such as tutoring, early childhood
programs, or improving teacher quality would be better investments.