Quotes from Treisman's talk, on this slide:
- "You can see from this that if you control for child poverty, we're pretty much on the top of the world."
- "The PISA scores mask the fact that child poverty rates were the principal factor in performance, not the particular structures of the country's education systems."
I tried to track down his data. PISA scores are easy enough to find, and the PSID, CNEF, UNICEF stuff comes from a UNICEF report, "Measuring Child Poverty." Cool. I dug in.
I noticed something on the Treisman slide. I saw Finland and Switzerland among the top scorers, but I didn't see any of the East Asian countries that regularly appear at the top of the PISA scores. It turns out that the report doesn't have child poverty rates for all of them, but that UNICEF report does have Japan's child poverty rates. I also noticed that Treisman's slide doesn't include all of the PISA or UNICEF countries, so I thought that I would put all of the data from PISA and UNICEF into an excel spreadsheet and graph them all.
This tells a bit of a more complicated story, no?
- As far as I can tell, these are the countries missing from Tresiman's slide:
- From the UNICEF report: "Underlying weak monitoring is the lack of any robust public or political consensus on how child poverty should be defined and measured." Some people think that relative child poverty should be measured, i.e. percentage of children below 50% of the median income of the country. Others want to use absolute poverty measures. There's one called the Deprivation Index that is determined by things like "Percentage of Children with Three Meals a Day" and "Percentage of Children that have some new clothes." Which measure of poverty matters for education: relative or absolute poverty?
- There's another child poverty report out there, with data from South Korea, another PISA high-flyer. The report is from the OECD. I didn't include their data in this graph, but South Korea is above the mean, near Ireland and Slovakia, by their measures.
- We don't have good data on child poverty for some of the other PISA rockstars. That includes a lot of the East Asian data points: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Taiwan. If you think that they're better on child poverty than similar scoring countries, then this helps Treisman's point. If you think that they're worse on child poverty than similar scoring countries, than this hurts his point.
- Hey, take my spreadsheet. Mess around with it. (If, someday in the future, this link is broken, email me and I'll send it your way.)
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