Monday, June 16, 2008

Heckman on Inequality

via Arnold Kling "econlog" - _Heckman on Inequality_
Schools, Skills, and Synapses - James J. Heckman - May 2008
"...interventions early in the life cycle of disadvantaged children have much higher economic returns than later interventions such as reduced pupil-teacher ratios, public job training, convict rehabilitation programs, adult literacy programs, tuition subsidies or expenditure on police."
Kling interpreting Heckman:
"An important inference to draw from the paper is that trying to reduce economic inequality by, say, subsidizing more young people to go to college, is likely to be very ineffective. Even interventions at the primary school level are mostly too late." "One of Heckman's themes is that while IQ is difficult to change with intervention, it is possible to affect what he calls socio-emotional skills, and those in turn will affect performance on test scores and overall achievement."
"Programs that target the early years seem to have the greatest promise... Programs with home visits affect the lives of the parents and create a permanent change in the home environment that supports the child after center-based interventions end. Programs that build character and motivation that do not focus exclusively on cognition appear to be the most effective."
Kling discussing Heckman:
"In the conclusion to his paper, Heckman stresses making sure that these early interventions "respect the sanctity of early family life and...cultural diversity." It is not clear that the basis for this concern is practical, or whether it is because Heckman is experiencing queasiness over promoting state intervention into family life. I can appreciate a libertarian concern with having the state take a large role in child-rearing. I am less persuaded if the concern is one of political correctness, where you want the state to intervene but then fret about the self-esteem of the families or groups where the intervention is undertaken."
My aside: Kling has a readership obsessed with _The Bell Curve_. _The Bell Curve_ is a dead end, if you are interested in the genetic component of life success.

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