Ofer Malamud

Associate Professor of Human Development and Social Policy


Ofer Malamud is an economist focused on education policy from an international perspective. His research is concentrated in three substantive areas: educational investments over the life course, the role of technology in the formation of human capital, and the effect of general and specific education on labor market outcomes. He has studied these topics in a wide range of institutional settings across countries such as Chile, England, Israel, Mexico, Peru, Romania, Scotland, and the United States.

Malamud is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a member of the CESifo Research Network. He also serves as a research consultant for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Before joining Northwestern, he was on the faculty of the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. 

Current Research

Interactions between Family and School Environments: Evidence on Dynamic Complementarities? Do conditions during early childhood affect the productivity of later educational investments? Malamud, together with Columbia University's Cristian Pop-Eleches and Miguel Urquiola, uses administrative data from Romania to ask whether the benefit of access to better schools is larger for children who experienced better family environments because they were born after the liberalization of a restrictive abortion policy in 1990. They implement an empirical strategy that combines a regression discontinuity design with a differences-in-differences framework to estimate impacts on a high-stakes school-leaving exam. Preliminary results show that access to abortion and access to better schools each have a positive impact on test scores, but there is no evidence of significant interactions between early life shocks and later educational investments. If anything, the benefits of access to a better school are larger for children born under a restrictive abortion policy, suggesting that higher-quality schools may help children overcome their disadvantage. While these results suggest the absence of dynamic complementarities in human capital formation, survey data indicate that they may also reflect behavioral responses by students and parents that offset some of their advantages.

Parental Monitoring and Children's Internet Use: The Role of Information, Control, and Cues. The risks and benefits of children’s home computer use are likely to depend on parental involvement and supervision. However, parents may lack either information or the ability to control their children’s use. Together with Francisco Gallego of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and Cristian Pop-Eleches of Columbia University, Malamud designed and implemented a set of randomized interventions in Chile to test the impact of sending parents weekly SMS messages containing specific information about their children’s recent internet use and/or encouragement and assistance with installing parental control software. They separate the informational content from the cue associated with SMS messages and also vary the strength of the cues by randomly assigning whether parents received messages in a predictable or unpredictable fashion. Preliminary results based on approximately 7,700 families suggest that messages providing parents with specific information reduce children’s internet use. Furthermore, receiving an unpredictable SMS message has a larger impact on use than one received in a predictable fashion, apart from the role of information. 

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in Mongolia. There is renewed interest in the potential for technical and vocational education to improve labor market outcomes in developed and developing countries. An initiative by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has sought to alleviate the mismatch between the supply and demand for skilled labor in Mongolia by funding equipment upgrades in vocational schools. Malamud is among the principal investigators leading the effort to analyze the impact of these equipment upgrades and vocational education in Mongolia more generally. The random assignment of applicants to trades in 10 TVET schools allows for a compelling evaluation of the impact of admission to a TVET school. Preliminary results indicate that admission to, and graduation from, technical and vocational schools leads to improved employment prospects and higher earnings, especially for women. There is also evidence of improved knowledge in the chosen trades and higher work intensity among women.

Selected Publications

Buckles, K., A. Hagemann, O. Malamud, M. Morrill, and A. Wozniak. 2016. The impact of college education on mortality. Journal of Health Economics 50:99–114.

Barrow, L., and O. Malamud. 2015. Is college a worthwhile investment? Annual Review of Economics 7:519–55.

Beuermann, D., J. Cristia, S. Cueto, O. Malamud, and Y. Cruz-Aguayo. 2015. One laptop per child at home: Short-term impacts from a randomized experiment in Peru. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 7(2): 53–80.

Alon, S., and O. Malamud. 2014. The impact of class-based affirmative action on admission and academic outcomes in Israel. Economics of Education Review 40:123–39.

Malamud, O., and A. Wozniak. 2012. The impact of college education on migration: Evidence from the Vietnam generation. Journal of Human Resources 47(4): 913–50.

Malamud, O., and C. Pop-Eleches. 2011. School tracking and access to higher education among disadvantaged groups. Journal of Public Economics 95(11–12): 1538–49.

Malamud, O., and C. Pop-Eleches. 2011. Home computer use and the development of human capital. Quarterly Journal of Economics 126(2): 987–1027.

Malamud, O. 2011. Discovering one’s talent: Learning from academic specialization. Industrial and Labor Relations Review 62(2): 375–405.

Malamud, O. 2010. Breadth vs. depth: The timing of specialization in higher education. Labour 24(4): 359–90.

Malamud, O., and C. Pop-Eleches. 2010. General education vs. vocational training: Evidence from an economy in transition. Review of Economics and Statistics 92(1): 43–60.