It's Berlin Wall-fall week-end
at HSIB, so we noticed this Voxeu piece by Arnaud Chevalier and Olivier Marie, who take advantage of a natural experiment
Following the collapse of the Communist regimes, fertility in Eastern
Europe went into a sharp decline (United Nations Economic Commission for
Europe 2000). This was especially marked in East Germany where there
was a 50% drop in fertility over a very short period (see Figure 1),
which has been described by demographers as the “most substantial fall
in birth rates that ever occurred in peacetime”
Economic uncertainty was one of the main reasons for the fertility drop.
Which kind of parents decide to still have children in such distressing
economic times, and does this parental selection matter in terms of the
To which they answer, jawohl
...we find that the Children of the Wall exhibit arrest rates at least 40%
higher when compared with older cohorts and to their West German peers.
This is true for all crime types and for both boys and girls.
Importantly, these differences in the frequency of contact with the
police start appearing as early as age 6 (Figure 2). This is despite
being part of a numerically smaller cohort, which is usually associated
with positive outcomes and is indicative of a strong negative parental
Similarly, the Children of the Wall have worse educational outcomes.
Compared with their class peers who were conceived just before the Wall
fell, they have lower test scores in PIRLS (age 11–12) and PISA (age
15–16) and are over-represented among low achievers. As such, they are
33% more likely to have repeated a grade by age 12 and 9% more likely to
have been put into a lower educational track.
Which gives rise to some disturbing conclusions;
Our findings confirm that parental selection may be one of the best
predictors of the future outcomes of a cohort, and that this most likely
works through quality of parenting. These conclusions have potentially
important policy implications. First, provision of public services
should not only be based only on the size of an incoming cohort, and
more attention should be paid to its composition. Second, interventions
need to start from a very young age, and targeting could probably be
improved by more commonly including non-cognitive characteristics such
as the risk attitudes of expecting mothers or children.
Maybe it would be better to be cautious about schemes to make neuen Menschen
, given what happened the last time it was tried.
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