Bryan Caplan  

The Political Economy of Social Desirability Bias

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Last week, I visited the University of Freiburg for a conference on behavioral political economy.  My presentation: "The Political Economy of Social Desirability Bias: The Case of Education."  The first half, which summarizes The Case Against Education, will already be familiar to most EconLog readers.  The second half, however, should seem new.  I blend psychology and public choice to explain why education is almost universally politically popular despite the bountiful evidence in favor of the signaling model.  Simple version: For all its faults, education simply sounds good.

My slides are here.  Enjoy!

P.S. Alex Tabarrok presented a stand-out talk on what's wrong with India.  If anyone is going to fix India, it will be him...




COMMENTS (5 to date)
B Krishnan writes:
Alex Tabarrok presented a stand-out talk on what's wrong with India.

Can someone elaborate? I can't seem to find the talk anywhere on the net.

Joseph E. Munson writes:

Ive often wondered if education also has a negative effect on creativity.

If so that is potentially another huge negative externality. Certainly famous artists and entrpreneurs and even my english lit proffessors seem to think so.

Also socities that seem to be good at education on paper seem to have lower than expected cultural artistic output ie singapore.

john hare writes:

@Joseph
I am curious as well about the possibility that excess schooling hurts creativity. I dropped out of the 6th grade and later picked up a GED and some college. I'm a fairly prolific inventor* and seldom meet well educated people that do well outside the box. Against that, I often meet poorly educated people that are thinking so far out of norm as to be poor at useful creativity#. I tend to think there is a break point in there somewhere.

*Mostly hardware that helps with our work, not the popular stuff that makes one wealthy.

#When someone is convinced that cars could run on water but the tech is suppressed, further discussion is not normally profitable.

Jay writes:

I think a big part of the reason is that if we admitted that education could not give everyone a path to success, then we would have to admit that we don't know how to give everyone a path to success. Americans' (somewhat stupid) belief that we all have a shot at success is a load-bearing part of our culture.

eric falkenstein writes:

Is there good empirical data on this hypothesis? Sorry I haven't been keeping up, and so perhaps you have a link, but that slideshow didn't seem to have anything but intuition (eg, history and Shakespeare not obviously relevant).

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