Economic Models in Education Research

A Workshop hosted by 

the University of Chicago's Committee on Education & 
the Population Research Center - NORC

April 7-8, 2011

Workshop Description

During the past decade or more, many economists and other social scientists have conducted many empirical assessments of experimental programs or new policies that introduced changes in the personnel policies that govern evaluation and pay for public educators.  While economists have participated in many efforts to measure the effects of such new programs, the economics research community has contributed little work that explores the optimal design of these systems.  This workshop provides an overview of basic tools that have been developed in the fields of mechanism design, personnel economics, and organizational economics with the aim of providing the next generation of education researchers with the basic tools required to inform the design of new incentive and accountability systems in education before they are tested in the field. The empirical literature on responses to existing systems highlights several design issues that must be addressed.

At this point, we are expecting 65 PhD students from more than fifteen different economics, policy, and education graduate programs.  Materials from the workshop will be posted on this site after its conclusion.  If you are interested in attending similar workshops in future years, please send an e-mail noting your interest to Derek Neal at

We appreciate the support of our sponsors: the Searle Freedom Trust, the Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State, and the Institute for Education Sciences.



Robert Gibbons - Workshop Slides

Robert Gibbons studies the design and performance of organizations and contracts, especially "relational contracts"  His book, Game Theory for Applied Economists (Princeton University Press, 1992) has been translated into Chinese, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish. He is currently preparing a second book, a doctoral text on organizational economics, and is co-editing the Handbook of Organizational Economics (with J. Roberts), both forthcoming with Princeton University Press. He is co-Principal Investigator for MIT Sloan's Program on Innovation in Markets and Organizations (2003-present) and Director of the NBER Working Group on Organizational Economics. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Econometric Society and the Society of Labor Economists.

C. Kirabo Jackson - Workshop Slides

C. Kirabo Jackson is an Assistant Professor at Northwestern University and a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. A labor economist, Kirabo Jackson studies education and social policy issues. His recent work analyzes the role of peer learning in teacher effectiveness and how student demographics directly affect the distribution of teacher quality across schools. He is also involved in a number of projects to understand when and why certain policies that reward teachers—or students—for student achievement improve student outcomes. Another research area involves the role of worker-firm “match quality” and its effects on worker productivity, including evidence that how well a teacher fits with a certain school can be as important as teacher quality for some outcomes. 

Derek Neal - Workshop Slides

Derek Neal is a Professor in the Department of Economics and the Committee on Education at the University of Chicago. Professor Nealʼs current research focuses on the design of incentive systems for educators.  His work explores the design flaws in current performance pay and accountability systems and also highlights the advantages of providing incentives through contests between schools. He is a recent past President of the Midwest Economics Association, a Fellow of the Society of Labor Economists. He now serves as an editor of the Journal of Political Economy.

Canice Prendergast - Workshop Slides

Canice John Prendergast is the W. Allen Wallis Professor of Economics at Chicago Booth. His recent work explores agency problems and recent seeking within bureaucracies. He is the author of "The Limits of Bureaucratic Efficiency" published in the Journal of Political Economy (2003) and "The Motivation and Bias of Bureaucrats" American Economic Review (2007).  Prendergast has worked as an editor for the Journal of Political Economy, the Review of Economic Studies, the Rand Journal of Economics and the Journal of Labor Economics

Douglas Staiger - Workshop Slides

Douglas Staiger is the John French Professor in Economics at Dartmouth and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His research interests include the economics of health care, economics of education, and statistical methods. His current research investigates the quality of care in hospitals, teacher effectiveness in elementary and secondary education, and labor markets for nurses and physicians. Staiger was the recipient of the Arrow Award for the best paper in health economics in 2007, and the Eugene Garfield Economic Impact of Medical and Health Research Award in 2008