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Monday NBER round-up

On Mondays, the National Bureau of Economics Research publishes an RSS feed with the abstracts of all their newest papers. I don't have a password to NBER, so I can't actually read these papers. But I enjoy the abstracts and am going to start posting the most interesting here. So, from this week's batch:

"The Importance of Being an Optimist: Evidence From Labor Markets," by Ron Kaniel, Cade Massey and David T. Robinson:

Dispositional optimism is a personality trait associated with individuals who believe, either rightly or wrongly, that in general good things tend to happen to them more often than bad things. Using a novel longitudinal data set that tracks the job search performance of MBA students, we show that dispositional optimists experience significantly better job search outcomes than pessimists with similar skills. During the job search process, they spend less effort searching and are offered jobs more quickly. They are choosier and are more likely to be promoted than others. Although we find optimists are more charismatic and are perceived by others to be more likely to succeed, these factors alone do not explain away the findings. Most of the effect of optimism on economic outcomes stems from the part that is not readily observed by one's peers.

"Does Drinking Impair College Performance? Evidence From a Regression Discontinuity Approach," by Scott E. Carrell, Mark Hoekstra and James E. West:

This paper examines the effect of alcohol consumption on student achievement. To do so, we exploit the discontinuity in drinking at age 21 at a college in which the minimum legal drinking age is strictly enforced. We find that drinking causes significant reductions in academic performance, particularly for the highest-performing students. This suggests that the negative consequences of alcohol consumption extend beyond the narrow segment of the population at risk of more severe, low-frequency, outcomes.

"Paying to Learn: The Effect of Financial Incentives on Elementary School Test Scores," by Eric P. Bettinger:

Policymakers and academics are increasingly interested in applying financial incentives to individuals in education. This paper presents evidence from a pay for performance program taking place in Coshocton, Ohio. Since 2004, Coshocton has provided cash payments to students in grades three through six for successful completion of their standardized testing. Coshocton determined eligibility for the program using randomization, and using this randomization, this paper identifies the effects of the program on students' academic behavior. We find that math scores improved about 0.15 standard deviations but that reading, social science, and science test scores did not improve.

By Ezra Klein  |  September 7, 2010; 3:40 PM ET
Categories:  Economics  
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You need to realize that abstracts, especially abstracts from working papers, are pretty worthless. None of these abstracts give any magnitude descriptions for example.

Posted by: endaround | September 7, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

"We find that drinking causes significant reductions in academic performance, particularly for the highest-performing students. "

Really? I'd need to read the study, but I'd assume that it implies that strict prohibition before 21 sets up the conditions for overindulgence at 21.

Okay, I've found the working paper. The college in question is... the Air Force Academy. No, really.

And what the study's number-crunching comes up with is that "drinking prior to and during final exam week causes a statistically and economically meaningful reduction in academic performance." Well, duh. And one of the authors is... a professor at the AFA. What a pile of crap.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | September 7, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Link here:

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | September 7, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, you are a journalist. Journalists get free access to NBER if you e-mail them your information.

Posted by: caelum12 | September 7, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

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