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Information, Incentives, and Education Policy

Information, Incentives, and Education Policy

Derek A. Neal

ISBN 9780674050907

Publication date: 05/14/2018

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How do we ensure that waste and inefficiency do not undermine the mission of publicly funded schools? Derek Neal writes that economists must analyze education policy in the same way they analyze other procurement problems. Insights from research on incentives and contracts in the private sector point to new approaches that could induce publicly funded educators to provide excellent education, even though taxpayers and parents cannot monitor what happens in the classroom.

Information, Incentives, and Education Policy introduces readers to what economists know—and do not know—about the logjams created by misinformation and disincentives in education. Examining a range of policy agendas, from assessment-based accountability and centralized school assignments to charter schools and voucher systems, Neal demonstrates where these programs have been successful, where they have failed, and why. The details clearly matter: there is no quick-and-easy fix for education policy. By combining elements from various approaches, economists can help policy makers design optimal reforms.

Information, Incentives, and Education Policy is organized to show readers how standard tools from economics research on information and incentives speak directly to some of the most crucial issues in education today. In addition to providing an overview of the pluses and minuses of particular programs, each chapter includes a series of exercises that allow students of economics to work through the mathematics for themselves or with an instructor’s assistance. For those who wish to master the models and tools that economists of education should use in their work, there is no better resource available.


  • Information, Incentives, and Education Policy provides an interesting and original overview of some of the most important ideas from economics concerning the design and performance of education systems. Neal’s main contribution is to provide a conceptual framework for thinking about how to best assess the performance of teachers and schools, how to attract, assess, and motivate good educators, and how to design and assess school choice within public school systems as well as charter schools and voucher programs.

    —Joseph G. Altonji, Yale University


  • Derek A. Neal is Professor in Economics and the Committee on Education and the College at the University of Chicago.

Book Details

  • 240 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press