Bryan Caplan  

The Case Against Education Now Available for Preorder!

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case.jpgMy next big book, The Case Against Education, is now available for preorder.  Yes, I know, it's been a long time coming: I actually posted the first page on EconLog ten years ago, and have been working on the project in earnest since 2011. 

Should regular blog readers buy it?  Absolutely.  While it's a book-length defense of the empirical importance of the signaling model of education, it's also an interdisciplinary odyssey through the subtleties of the economics, psychology, sociology, and philosophy of education.  It's probably the longest and most research-intensive book I'll ever write.  EconLog fans will know the gist of my story, but I've never blogged most of the topics in the book.  Furthermore, in the process of writing, I've changed my mind about several key issues - including the practical relevance of the so-called "ban" on IQ testing for employment.  And if you've ever found my writing entertaining, the sentences in The Case Against Education are as entertaining as I get.

Physical books should ship in January, but a homemade preorder certificate still makes a great holiday stocking stuffer.  Isn't the book too depressing for the holidays?  Not at all.  The discovery that major policies could be vastly improved is always reason for joyous celebration...

COMMENTS (15 to date)
JH writes:

Congrats on the book! I will definitely pick up a copy. While we're on the topic, I wonder what you think about this new paper on the relationship between education and IQ:

From the abstract: We meta-analysed three categories of quasi-experimental studies of educational effects on intelligence: those estimating education-intelligence associations after controlling for earlier intelligence, those using compulsory schooling policy changes as instrumental variables, and those using regression-discontinuity designs on school-entry age cutoffs. Across 142 effect sizes from 42 datasets involving over 600,000 participants, we found consistent evidence for beneficial effects of education on cognitive abilities, of approximately 1 to 5 IQ points for an additional year of education. Moderator analyses indicated that the effects persisted across the lifespan, and were present on all broad categories of cognitive ability studied. Education appears to be the most consistent, robust, and durable method yet to be identified for raising intelligence.

gwern writes:

JH: it doesn't add anything. No one in intelligence doubts that education would increase IQ *scores*, the question has always been if the gains are hollow or not. As an economist might say, Goodhart's law applies - when you start manipulating a measurement for control, it ceases to be a measure. (Medical researchers will be ruefully thinking of similar problems with 'biomarkers' rather than hard endpoints.) There have been experiments since like the 1970s which show reproducible increases on IQ test scores, but IQ scores are not identical to intelligence, and the gains turn out to be hollow: the improvements are only on one subtest, or the factor structure shifts and intercorrelations decrease, or IQ test scores go up but not grades (to say nothing of more fundamental g-loaded things like reaction times or behavior). For example, in discussing the Milwaukee Project's 1970s results, Jensen notes that the gains of like 20 IQ points were confined solely to the Performance tests with no gains on the Verbal tests, the grade gains disappeared after a few years, and the case studies of their behavioral problems appeared identical to him; which is hardly what you would expect from such enormous test score increases if they weren't hollow.

Ritchie briefly acknowledges this in the discussion but nowhere else, despite having done one of the earlier studies showing that education/IQ gains are hollow. He said on Twitter when I criticized him for this, it's not his fault if everyone choses to misinterpret it... (I think it is.)

Floccina writes:

I put in an order.

Ari writes:

I have been waiting for this book. I am so buying it!

Education is modern prison and every citizen is sentenced to like 20+ years of your life to serve in that. In the worst case you end up with lots of bullies.

Ahmed writes:

Fertility rates correlate inversely with female literacy rates. Basically, a society that gets too smart ends up committing demographic suicide.

Europe has a fertility rate of 1.6, well below the 2.1 replacement fertility rate necessary to maintain a stable population. Europe could use a little dumbing down.

Another reason for less education.

Brian writes:


Yes, but the reason for that is that education provides people, especially women, new options for being productive, so they don't have to be productive through procreation alone. This is actually an argument against Bryan's thesis. If education didn't increase productivity, people would continue to increase their productivity through procreation at the same rates as before.

William Friedman writes:

I'm preordering the Kindle on Amazon now. It should be an interesting book!

Brendan writes:

[Comment removed. Please consult our comment policies and check your email for explanation.--Econlib Ed.]

Adam writes:

Yeah, after Phi Beta Kappa AB at Berkeley, MSc and PhD, I figured that out. Too late...LOL.

But actually, "education" is not the waste. It's school systems that waste human lives, overburdened as they are with mandates and disinterested inmates.

In contrast, education as learning creates us. It allows us to be human and humane. It's sad to see so many souls mistake schooling for education.

Look forward to reading the book, but wish the title had hit the mark. I'm sure the content does.

Wallace Forman writes:

Looking forward to reading! Ordered.

Thaomas writes:

Are there other ways (besides publicly funded "education") of reducing the advantages of the children of higher income people?

spaf writes:

Glad to see the kindle price has dropped on this. When I first stumbled on it, it was as high as the hardcover. At this price I will purchase it. Hope the discount brings more sales from other price sensitive readers like me.

Good luck with the book. I have a 4 day old feeding across the room from me that your other book is partly responsible for (though without it, my wife would have likely won our stalemate anyway and I would have just used other ways to rationalize my capitulation).

I'll be rooting for you and Hanson to do well with your contrarian books this winter.

Brian writes:


Why would we want to reduce the "advantages" of anyone? Everyone should be given the opportunity to fulfill their potential, and public school is one of those ways. But it has nothing to do with reducing anyone's advantages.

Thaomas writes:


I was trying to ask if there are other less wasteful ways of equalizing up the incomes, social and human capital of children born to low income, social and human capital parents.

Justin writes:

I have to say I'm not a fan of the title. I get that being inflammatory generates attention and attention drives sales, but it's just not a good opening line if you're trying to convince someone that you're here to help.

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