Once you figure out the perfect structure for your book, it writes itself.  Unfortunately, figuring out that perfect structure is extremely difficult.  Here’s the tentative structure for my book in progress, The Case Against Education.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: The Magic of Education

Chapter 2: Useless Studies with Big Payoffs: The Puzzle Is Real

Chapter 3: Signaling Explained

Chapter 4: Measuring Signaling

Chapter 5: Who Cares If It’s Signaling?  The Private, Familial, and Social Returns to Education

Chapter 6: Is Education Good for the Soul?

Chapter 7: We Need Lots Less Education

Chapter 8: We Need More Vocational Education


The book’s basic plot:

The labor market heavily rewards educational credentials even though academic curriculum is seriously disconnected from the jobs people actually do.  The best explanation for this strange fact is that education is a strong signal of pre-existing worker productivity. (chapter 1)

While the return to education is often overstated, it remains high after making various statistical adjustments.  Degrees in useless subjects really do substantially raise wages. (chapter 2)

Education signals a package of desirable employee traits: intelligence of course, but also conscientiousness and conformity.  Many people dismiss the signaling model on a priori grounds, but educational signaling is at least as plausible as many widely accepted forms of of statistical discrimination. (chapter 3)

Empirically distinguishing signaling from human capital is notoriously difficult.  But literatures on the sheepskin effect, employer learning, and the international return to education confirm that signaling is moderately to highly important. (chapter 4)

How much education should you get?  The human capital-signaling distinction isn’t important at the individual level, but the policy implications are enormous. (chapter 5)

The non-pecuniary benefits of education are over-rated, and the non-pecuniary costs (especially boredom) are under-rated.  There’s a massive selection bias because the kind of people who hate school rarely publicize their complaints. (chapter 6)

The most important implication of the signaling model is that we spend way too much money on education.  Education spending at all levels should be drastically reduced, and people should enter the labor force at much younger ages. (chapter 7)

The education we offer should be more vocational.  Especially for weaker students, vocational education has a higher private and social return than traditional academic education. (chapter 8)

I welcome your comments on organization, and well as any thoughts on my sins of omission or commission.