Friday, September 30, 2016

Working Papers of the Week: September 30, 2016

By Jessica McCann

Welcome to Working Papers of the Week! Our goal is to highlight the valuable and interesting research Kennedy School faculty members are doing here and abroad by featuring new working papers recently uploaded to the site.

This week in working papers:

Does Online Delivery Increase Access to Education? 
Goodman, Joshua, Julia Melkers, and Amanda Pallais

Though online technology has generated excitement about its potential to increase access to education, most research has focused on comparing student performance across online and in-person formats. We provide the first evidence that online education affects the number of people pursuing formal education. We study Georgia Tech’s Online M.S. in Computer Science, the earliest model to combine the inexpensive nature of online education with a highly regarded degree program. Regression discontinuity estimates exploiting an admissions threshold unknown to applicants show that access to this online option substantially increases overall enrollment in formal education, expanding the pool of students rather than substituting for existing educational options. Demand for the online option is driven by mid-career Americans. By satisfying large, previously unmet demand for mid-career training, this single program will boost annual production of American computer science master’s degrees by about eight percent. More generally, these results suggest that low cost, high quality online options may open opportunities for populations who would not otherwise pursue education.

To read the full working paper, click here.

Microfinance: Points of Promise
Field, Erica, Abraham Holland, and Rohini Pande

We present a new measure of judicial ideology based on judicial hiring behavior. Specifically, we utilize the ideology of the law clerks hired by federal judges to estimate the ideology of the judges themselves. These Clerk-Based Ideology (CBI) scores complement existing measures of judicial ideology in several ways. First, CBI scores can be estimated for judges across the federal judicial hierarchy. Second, CBI scores can capture temporal changes in ideology. Third, CBI scores avoid case selection and strategic behavior concerns that plague existing vote-based measures. We illustrate the promise of CBI scores through a number of applications.

To read the full working paper, click here.

Research and Impacts of Digital Financial Services 
Pande, Rohini, Dean Karlan, Jake Kendall, Rebecca Mann, Tavneet Suri, and Jonathan Zinman

A growing body of rigorous research shows that financial services innovations can have important positive impacts on wellbeing, but also that many do not. We first describe the latest evidence on what works in financial inclusion. Second, we summarize research on key financial market failures and on products and innovations that address specific mechanisms underlying them. We conclude by highlighting open areas for future work.

To read the full working paper, click here.

Why American Elections Are Flawed (and How to Fix Them) 
Norris, Pippa

Concern about how American elections work has risen since 2000 and has been exacerbated by events during the 2016 campaign. To understand these issues, the first section examines several major challenges facing U.S. elections, including deepening party polarization over electoral procedures, the vulnerability of electronic records to hacking, and the impact of deregulating campaign spending, compounding the lack of professional standards of electoral management. For a broader perspective, section 2 clarifies the core concept and measure of ‘electoral integrity’, the key yardstick used in this report to evaluate the performance of American contests. Section 3 compares cross-national evidence from expert surveys, finding that recent US elections have the worst performance among two-dozen Western democracies. Section 4 considers pragmatic reforms designed to strengthen U.S. electoral laws and procedures, recommending expanding secure and convenient registration and balloting facilities, improving the independence and professional standards of electoral management, monitoring performance, and strengthening impartial dispute resolution mechanisms. The conclusion summarizes the core argument and the reforms.

To read the full working paper, click here.

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