Instructions: Choose a contemporary question relating to the economics of education that has real-world policy relevance. Identify relevant economic theory and evidence and write an accessible research and/or policy brief summarizing your findings and key implications.
“Appropriately formatted” in this case means:
• Title, Authors, and Date are listed at top of the document
• Times New Roman 12-point font or Calibri 11-point font • 1” margins all around
• Single spaced with blank line between paragraphs (common format for research/policy reviews in real world).
• APA style references, with minimum of six sources (more may be needed).
• The source list should include at least two original economic research articles.
• The document should include at least two graphs, charts, or tables.
• Indicate the word count (not including references) at the top of the document.
• Text (not including references) should be approximately 1500 words (approx. 3 pages single spaced).
Writing a research and/or policy brief:
First, read: • “Introduction to the Policy Brief Special Issue,” by Thomas Downes and Kieran Killen: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/EDFP_e_00094
• “The Problem with Briefs, In Brief,” by Carrie Conaway (incoming president of the Association for Education Finance and Policy [AEFP]) http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/full/10.1162/EDFP_a_00096.
• You might also check out the “briefs” in that issue, though they are still much longer than what you will be doing for this class. There is not one single, universally accepted format for such a brief. The best format to use may depend upon the type of question you ask. For example, one brief might focus on resolving conflicting evidence within the economic literature. Such a paper might go into much more detail on a small number of studies to try to resolve the discrepant findings, with policy implications provided just for motivation at the beginning of the brief. Alternatively, for a question for which a lot of evidence already exists, a brief might focus on connecting this evidence to specific policy trends and implications, potentially citing many more studies but in less depth. Or, a brief may draw attention to an important policy issue on which there is insufficient economic research. Such a brief might place more emphasis on motivating why the question is important, using descriptive evidence and economic theory, and end with implications for research rather than clear implications for policy.
REQUIREMENTS of any brief for this class include:
a clear statement of the scope/goal of the brief, compelling motivation for why the question is important, clear connection to contemporary policy issue(s), incorporation of economic theory and empirical evidence, implications for future research and/or policy, and clear/concise/logical composition. Original data analysis is not required (but not prohibited either). The best way to get ideas for questions and for the format of your brief is to look through some examples.
Here are some places to start:
• JSC has written for a weekly series called Evidence Speaks put out by the Brookings Institution. The contributors are predominantly economists writing on applied policy topics. Take a look at archived posts here: https://www.brookings.edu/series/evidencespeaks/ (NOTE: not every piece will reflect the requirements for this course; in particular, your briefs should make sure to incorporate reference to some of the economic theory discussed in this class.)
• Should New York State invest in a new “free college” program? https://www.brookings.edu/research/as-cuomo-proposal-rekindles-free-collegemovement-new-research-provides-ammunition-for-skeptics/
• The research center I work with, CCRC, publishes short briefs as well:
• Should we continue to invest $1 billion/year in the Federal Work-Study program? http://capseecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/capsee-does-fws-programreally-work.pdf
• Should need-based financial aid programs include performance incentives? http://capseecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/performance-requirementsneed-based-aid.pdf
• Johns Hopkins School of Public Health has a 20-minute online lecture on writing policy briefs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1GpcAoBvnc
• 1-hour Lecture on policy brief writing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zm4Cj9oUDwA
• Some sophisticated blogs and economic columnists provide content sometimes similar to a brief, e.g. the NYT’s Economic View column, or the Upshot or old Economix blog
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