Monthly Archives: October 2015

“Can welfare conditionality combat high school dropout?”

I have a new working paper out, joint work with Simen Markussen and Knut Røed. Simen has written provocatively about the paper in the today’s Dagens Næringsliv, which is also running a companion piece. These are only in Norwegian (and behind a paywall), however, so here is a brief summary in English:

We investigate what happens when Norwegian social insurance offices increase their use of conditions would-be welfare recipients need to satisfy in order to receive welfare. Using the staggered introduction of this program and based on double and triple difference models, we find that such conditionality reduces the number of young people that receive welfare, and more importantly, increases the high school graduation rate. For young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, we find substantial and precise effects, whereas we find no effects on youth from more resourceful backgrounds, as expected. A few years later, we find that those who were exposed to new regime have more education, earn more, and are more likely to be employed. Thus even though activating these people may cost something upfront, it pays off in the long run.

The newspaper has an interview with a guy who got on track and gets some work experience through this system. Here is the abstract of the research paper:

Based on administrative data, we analyze empirically the effects of stricter conditionality for social assistance receipt on welfare dependency and high school completion rates among Norwegian youths. Our evaluation strategy exploits a geographically differentiated implementation of conditionality. The causal effects are identified on the basis of larger-thanexpected within-municipality changes in outcomes that not only coincide with the local timing of conditionality implementation, but do so in a way that correlates with individual ex ante predicted probabilities of becoming a social assistance claimant. We find that stricter conditionality significantly reduces welfare claims and increases high school completion rates.

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Monthly book roundup – 2015 September

Books finished in September:
(Warning: reviews are unpolished and quickly written.)

Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will (2015) by Geoff Colvin. We are at the fourth turning point of workers (1. Industrial technology, 2. Electricity, 3. IT). Amazing advances by computers and robots. In stead of asking what computers can never do, ask what we will insist that humans do. Examples of the latter include roles of accountability for important decisions, like judges in court of law, CEOs, generals, other types of leaders; dealing with organizational issues where the conceptualization and nature of a problem keep changing; and areas where we want to look someone in the eye, like a doctor (this one puzzled me, given the advances made by computerized diagnosing). All this assuming society still run by humans, and that cyborgs that look perfectly like humans have not come into being. The value of empathy in forgin interpersonal connections. Good examples of the value of practice, often in various forms of simulations, from the military. Colvin makes the claim that human teams are still key, however the amassed evidence is here a bit short on causal relationships. Luckily this is not a trait running through the book. Recommended.

Guantánamo Diary (2015) by Mohamedou Ould Slahi. Writing in 2005, Mohamedou Ould Slahi from Mauritania tells the story of how in 2001 he was detained by Mauritianian authorities, transferred to Jordan, then Afghanistan, then in 2002 to Guantanamo, Cuba, where he has remained since. It is difficult to evalutate a book like this, both because the author has obious incentives to represent his story in a certain way, and because the other side does not go out with all they supposedly know. It is hard to not be moved by his story, though, and the reasonableness with which he describes his situation, himself, and his guards. The New Yorker and the Guardian have good reviews. Recommended.

Annihilation: A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy) (2014) by Jeff VanderMeer. An expedition sets out to explore the abandoned, mysterious “Area X”. Too much horror/fantasy for me. Not recommended.

Ratings and old books are in the library.