Post-Doctoral Fellow, Economics of Education

Cambridge, MA

LOCATION: Cambridge, MA, United States (some flexibility)

START DATE: As soon as possible

LENGTH OF COMMITMENT: 1 year minimum (extendable to 2 years)


About EPoD 

Housed within the Center for International Development (CID), Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) is a dynamic research initiative that brings analytical insights, typically from economics, to the design and implementation of public policies and programs around the world. EPoD directly engages with governments and local organizations to identify key questions, design innovative new policies or interventions, and test these using the tools of applied microeconomics, including large field-based experiments. Current research topics at EPoD include governance, social protection, education, entrepreneurship, health, skills, state capacity, sustainable development, and access to finance.  Research projects are ongoing in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, China and Mexico. 

About the position 

We are recruiting a postdoctoral fellow for an exciting new position to help build pedagogical material for courses on the economics of education, with a focus on low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The position will also contribute towards a book focusing on a market/systems-based view of education that also draws parallels from the fields of health and finance.  

The ideal candidate will be familiar with the literature on education (as well as have some familiarity with literature in the health and finance fields) and will be deeply interested in developing material accessible to a wider audience that would be helpful with both the teaching material and book. This includes leveraging new methods of teaching and pedagogy, data visualization etc. that utilize a number of tools and methods for different levels of specialization.  These tools may range from teaching slides to asynchronous recorded content to program-based simulations that will help students at the undergraduate and graduate levels understand key aspects of education in LMICs. The focus throughout will be on economics of education as viewed through theory and empirical research while drawing relevant parallels from the fields of health and finance.  

 

What skills are we looking for?

We are looking for individuals with graduate training in economics, microeconomic theory, statistics/econometrics, and education. PhDs in economics, public policy and/or education fields are preferable. (Masters with extensive relevant work experience are also welcome to apply, but post-doctoral candidates are preferred).  Interest and experience in pedagogy, data visualization, data science methods is a plus.  

We do not expect applicants to have a detailed understanding of each of these topics, but we do expect applicants to have sufficient graduate-level training to work through theoretical models and empirical models. We also expect the position to be able to build out simulations and work with a programmer on implementing these simulations. An example of the simulations we have in mind is https://observablehq.com/d/bc47f8edca5b186f, which is for a specific example for Covid-19. Overall, applicants for this position must be deeply interested in developing new methods that help students learn the material at various levels of expertise and communicate insights to a wider audience.  

The position will work closely with Professor Asim Ijaz Khwaja at Harvard Kennedy School and Professor Jishnu Das at Georgetown University. Furthermore, there will be specific topics where the position will work with the top researchers on those topics to develop a better understanding of issues. 

Depending on the workload and progress in the first year, the contract may be renewed for one additional year. 

 

Additional Information about the Position  

Why is this necessary: Research on the economics of education has become increasingly complex with empirical tools that range from RCTs and selection models to more complex techniques in the estimation of Teacher Value Added and the demand for schooling. Similarly, theoretical tools range from Mincer's compensating differential models to models of industrial organization used in studies of the market for schooling. These can be difficult concepts to convey and current course offerings do not yet include a wide variety of teaching methods that can improve the student's understanding. Underused techniques include simulations that students can work with themselves, "deep dives" that help students master a technique, calibrated problem sets that help students work through key issues and asynchronous lecture content that is available for additional material. By developing this material at different levels, we plan to widen the relevance and usability of new empirical and theoretical papers on education in LMIC. 

 

What topics will be covered: The postdoc will be part of the team and therefore will have input on the topics covered. At the moment, we envision building out 6 separate modules (each module has multiple lectures) for the following topics: 

 

1. Education and the Labor Market: Includes Mincer's theory and empirical tests of the model to a detailed explanation of Banerjee's "Educational Policy and the Economics of the Family" (graduate level). On the empirical side, the material includes selection bias and how to account for such bias in empirical studies. 

 

2. Education and inter-generational mobility (IGM): Introduces IGM as arising from market failures, including credit market failures. Discusses the estimation and results from models of IGM. 

 

3. Education and the Schooling Market: Discusses the recent upsurge in the economics of "education markets" with models drawn from industrial organization and estimated with models of discrete choice. Canonical papers are Bau (2020) and Andrabi et al. (2017). 

 

4. Education and the Teachers markets: Discusses how to estimate models of Teacher Value Added, including Bayes shrinkage and estimation of variance, and supply side considerations. 

 

5. Education and Households: Discusses optimal allocation of resources within households (compensation versus reinforcement), household responses to school inputs and failures of the unitary model (moral hazard between children and parents). 

 

6. Education and Political Economy: Introduces political economy considerations--ranging from the idea of state schooling as important for civic values to the link between state schools and participation in democracy. 

 

7. Measurement of test scores: Discusses methods of scoring tests (item-response theory, ordinal methods) and the assumptions built into these models. Highlights the problems with cardinality assumptions in test scores and how they affect our understanding of test score differences. 

 

How to Apply:  

If you are interested, please email epod@hks.harvard.edu with the subject line "Post-doc: Economics of Education", your CV, academic transcript, writing sample, and a statement of interest.