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Ofer Malamud

Professor of Human Development and Social Policy

PhD, Economics, Harvard University, 2004

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.

Headstrong Girls and Dependent Boys: Gender Differences in the Labor Market Returns to Child Behavior and Skills. Many recent studies have documented the significant relationship between earnings and childhood socio-emotional behaviors. However, there has been relatively little research on gender differences in the labor market returns to these behaviors, especially when disaggregated into specific domains of behavior. Malamud uses data from the Children of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (C-NLSY79) survey to examine associations between several distinct child behavioral problems and early adult earnings. The findings indicate large and significant earnings penalties for women who exhibited more headstrong behavior and for men who exhibited more dependent behavior. These gender differences are substantial, representing approximately 40% of the gap between male and female average earnings. In contrast, there are no penalties for men who were headstrong or for women who were dependent. He also finds evidence that differences in workplace settings, as stratified by education and occupation, are related to these gender differences, suggesting that they may be a consequence of deviations from gender norms and stereotypes that manifest in the workplace.

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

Kaestner, R., and O. Malamud. 2022. Headstrong girls and dependent boys: Gender differences in the labor market returns to child behavior. ILR Review

Malamud, O., A. Mitrut, and C. Pop-Eleches. 2021. The effect of education on mortality and health: Evidence from a schooling expansion in Romania. Journal of Human Resources

Gallego F., O. Malamud,  and C. Pop-Eleches. 2020. Parental monitoring and children's Internet use: The role of information, control, and salience. Journal of Public Economics 188: 1-18.

Malamud, O., B. Beuermann, J. Cristia, and S. Cueto. 2019. Do children benefit from Internet access? Experimental evidence from PeruJournal of Development Economics 138: 41–56.

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.