“The fact that educated people in the Middle East and North Africa are almost always employed by the government suggests a problem with the private sector,” says Joshua Angrist, a co-winner of the 2021 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. “However, I have not seen any evidence of any reform done yet.”
Angrist, an American labour economist and professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, won the prize along with David Card and Guido Imbens. (See a related article, “Nobel Laureate David Card Believes Scholars Need a Global Perspective”.)
In announcing the prize, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said that the laureates had demonstrated that many of society’s big questions can be answered using “natural experiments—situations arising in real life that resemble randomised experiments.”
Angrist has used such methods in research on topics including the effects of school inputs on student achievement, the impact of increased higher education on people’s income.
In an interview with Al-Fanar Media, Angrist talked about his research and its implications for the Arab world.
In your research, you have argued that higher education results in higher income.
In a paper with Alan Krueger, we came up with a natural experiment to estimate the economic return to schooling. … In the American education system, people who are born later in the year start school younger. So, if you are born in the fourth quarter of the year, you will start first grade by September when you are not 6 years old yet. As you are not allowed to drop out of school before your 16th birthday, you will spend more time in school (than those born in the first quarter).
The work Krueger and I did showed that there is indeed a large economic return (to schooling). That was one of the papers that the Nobel committee emphasizes.