Saturday, November 8, 2014

...but less than kind

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 cohort’s outcomes?
 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 selection.
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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