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Equalizing Superstars: The Internet and the Democratization of Education

MIT Department of Economics Working Paper No. 14-03

11 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2014  

Daron Acemoglu

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

David Laibson

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

John A. List

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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Date Written: January 17, 2014

Abstract

Educational resources distributed via the Internet are rapidly proliferating. One prominent concern associated with these potentially transformative developments is that, as many of the leading technologies of the last several decades have been, these new sweeping technological changes will be highly disequalizing, creating superstar teachers, a wider gulf between different groups of students and potentially a winner-take-all educational system. In this paper, we argue that, these important concerns notwithstanding, a major impact of the superstars created by web based educational technologies will be the democratization of education: not only will educational resources be more equally distributed, but also lower-skilled teachers will be winners from this technology. At the root of our results is the observation that for web-based technologies to exploit the comparative advantage of skilled lecturers, they will need to be complemented with opportunities for face-to-face discussions with instructors, and web-based lectures will increase the quantity and quality of teaching services complementary to such instruction, potentially increasing the marginal product and wages of lower-skill teachers.

Keywords: computers, education, inequality, Internet, non-rival technologies, online education, superstars

JEL Classification: I20, I24, A20, O33.

Suggested Citation

Acemoglu, Daron and Laibson, David and List, John A., Equalizing Superstars: The Internet and the Democratization of Education (January 17, 2014). MIT Department of Economics Working Paper No. 14-03. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2382890 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2382890

Daron Acemoglu (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

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David I. Laibson

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John A. List

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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