Candidate Spotlight is a showcase of research by PhD students coming onto the job market from the Department of Economics, University of Toronto. Today’s post introduces Paul Z. Han whose job market paper entitled Biased Learning, Dynamic Effort and Course Design, utilizes a behavioural model in the study of the economics of education. Professor Victor Aguirregabiria, a member of Han’s supervision committee describes the paper and its contribution to the discipline.
Paul Han specializes in structural econometrics, with a specific focus on dynamic structural models. His job market paper is in education economics where he investigates how certain aspects of student assessment in a university course influence students’ hours of study and their acquisition of knowledge.
His model assumes that students make decisions based on their expected utility, which considers the grades they aim to achieve, and the associated effort required. What sets Paul’s model apart is its recognition that, at the outset of the course, students may hold biased beliefs regarding the connection between study hours and grades, as well as their skills related to the course material. As the course unfolds, students update these beliefs in response to their test grades. Paul employs data from an undergraduate course at the University of Toronto to estimate his model. His dataset encompasses both objective data, including student attendance records and test results, and survey-generated information on students’ hours of study, as well as their elicited preferences and beliefs.
He ingeniously combines these diverse data sources to develop an identification approach that integrates revealed and elicited preferences and beliefs. Through his counterfactual analysis, he uncovers a significant positive influence of students’ biased perceptions about the benefits of studying hours on their effort and knowledge acquisition.
Conversely, on average, their skewed beliefs about their course-specific skills have a negative impact on their study hours. Furthermore, Paul’s findings indicate that the sign and magnitude of the effect on study hours of incorporating more frequent tests hinges on the relative speed at which students adjust their misconceptions about their skills compared to their misperceptions about the returns of hours of study. This paper demonstrates Paul’s strong technical skills.
Author: Victor Aguirregabiria is Professor of Economics at the University of Toronto. His most recent paper with Alessandro Iaria, and Senay Sokullu is Identification and Estimation of Demand Models with Endogenous Product Entry and Exit (August 28, 2023). Is is available at SSRN.
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