Scott and Donya Bommer Professor of Economics
Stanford University

The Fork in the Road: The Imperative of Investing in Adolescent Education

Lecture I: The Fork in the Road: Adolescence, Education, Economic Fatalism, and Populism
Tuesday, April 12, 2022
4:10 p.m. – 6:15 p.m., Toll Room, Alumni House*
with commentary by Jan-Werner Müller

Lecture II: Smart Money: Educational Investments in Adolescents Earn Higher Returns
Wednesday, April 13, 2022
4:10 p.m. – 6:15 p.m., Toll Room, Alumni House*
with commentary by Erik Hurst and Silvia Bunge

Seminar and Discussion with the commentators
Thursday, April 14, 2022
4:10 p.m. – 6:15 p.m., Toll Room, Alumni House*
with commentary by Jan-Werner Müller, Erik Hurst, and Silvia Bunge

*The lectures and the seminar are free and open to the public.

About Caroline Hoxby

Caroline Hoxby is the Scott and Donya Bommer Professor of Economics at Stanford University, the Director of the Economics of Education Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. Prior to teaching at Stanford, she served as the Allie S. Freed Professor of Economics at Harvard University from 1994-2007. She received her Ph.D. in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994, an M.Phil. in Economics from the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar in 1990, and her B.A. in Economics at Harvard University in 1988, graduating summa cum laude. Hoxby is also a Principal Investigator of the Expanding College Opportunities project, which has a had dramatic impact on low-income, high-achieving college students, and for which she recently received the Smithsonian Institution’s Ingenuity Award.

About the Lectures

One of the world’s leading scholars in the field of education economics, Hoxby’s lectures will draw upon economics, neuroscience, and education.  In her first lecture, she will show that early adolescence is the point at which most people either join the path towards advanced cognitive skills or not.  Hoxby will argue that, in a highly industrialized economy like that of the United States, it is not unreasonable for people on the non-advanced-cognitive-skills path to exhibit “economic fatalism”—despair at their long-term economic prospects.  This may explain patterns in persons’ susceptibility to populism and political movements that promise to insulate them from the world economy.  In her second lecture, Hoxby will argue that the logical flip side of her argument is that early adolescence is the crucial period for improvements in education.  She will provide rigorous evidence that the returns to successful educational interventions are higher in early adolescence than at other ages.  However, she will also show that much less money is spent on adolescents’ education than on that of younger or older students.  Hoxby will argue that the neglect of adolescent education could have profound consequences, not just on economic outcomes but political and social outcomes, due to a substantial share of the population’s failing to develop advanced cognitive skills.

About the Commentators

Jan-Werner Müller

Roger Williams Straus Professor of Social Sciences and Professor of Politics
Princeton University

Jan-Werner Mueller is Roger Williams Straus Professor of Social Sciences and Professor of Politics at Princeton University. He works mainly in democratic theory and the history of modern political thought; he also has a research interest in the relationship between architecture and politics, as well as the normative implications of the current structural transformations of the public sphere. Publications include Constitutional Patriotism (2007), Contesting Democracy: Political Ideas in Twentieth-Century Europe (2011) and What is Populism? (2016), which has been translated into more than 20 languages. 2019 saw the publication of Furcht und Freiheit: Für einen anderen Liberalismus, which won the Bavarian Book Prize; in 2021, Democracy Rules appeared with FSG and Penguin.

Erik Hurst

Frank P. and Marianne R. Diassi Distinguished Service Professor of Economics
University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Erik Hurst is the Frank P. and Marianne R. Diassi Distinguished Service Professor of Economics and the John E. Jeuck Faculty Fellow at the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business. He is also the current Deputy Director of the University of Chicago’s Becker-Friedman Institute.  He serves as a research associate for the National Bureau of Economic Research, a co-editor of the National Bureau of Economics Macroeconomics Annual and a co-editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. 

Professor Hurst is an economist whose work lies at the intersection of macroeconomics, labor economics and urban economics.  His research has addressed topics such as declining male participation rates, the determinants of U.S. wage growth, the welfare losses to society stemming from gender and racial discrimination, the causes and consequences of urban gentrification, the economics of time use, small business dynamics, life-cycle consumption profiles, the role of housing and mortgage markets in driving macroeconomic conditions, and the choice to invest in human capital. His research has been extensively covered in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist.

Silvia Bunge, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Psychology & Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute
University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Silvia Bunge is a Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. She directs the Building Blocks of Cognition Laboratory, which draws from the fields of cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology, and education research. Her lab studies the cognitive and neural processes that support reasoning, memory, and goal-directed behavior in humans. The  lab  also studies how these processes mature over childhood and adolescence, and how they are shaped by education and demographic factors – for better and for worse. Professor Bunge seeks to extend her research to understand individual differences and developmental change in reasoning about real-world phenomena in daily life, as well as in the context of STEM education. To investigate these phenomena, the lab leverages behavioral, structural and functional brain imaging, and eyetracking methods, and experimental, cross-sectional, and longitudinal designs.