Episode 025: Russ Roberts on the Economics of Education

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What could happen if we looked at education from an economic perspective?  Well, we explore exactly that in episode 025 of MEP with Russ Roberts from Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and the host of the long running educational podcast EconTalk.  Don’t miss this one!

Guest Bio:

Russell Roberts is the John and Jean De Nault Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He tries to make economics understandable to a general audience.

Roberts hosts the weekly podcast EconTalk–hour-long conversations with authors, economists, and business leaders. Past guests include Milton Friedman, Nassim Taleb, Christopher Hitchens, Jimmy Wales, Joseph Stiglitz, and John BogleEconTalk was named podcast of the year in the 2008 Weblog Awards.

Russ Roberts

His two rap videos on the ideas of John Maynard Keynes and F.A. Hayek, created with filmmaker John Papola, have had more than six million views on YouTube, been subtitled in eleven languages, and are used in high school and college classrooms around the world. His newest web-based economics education project is “The Numbers Game,” a look at data and charts using animated videos.

His latest book is The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity (Princeton University Press, 2008). Set on the Stanford campus, it’s a novel that tells the story of wealth creation and the unseen forces around us creating and sustaining economic possibilities. He is also the author of The Invisible Heart: An Economic Romance (MIT Press, 2002) and The Choice: A Fable of Free Trade and Protectionism (Prentice Hall, 3rd edition, 2006). The Invisible Heart explores the economics and morality of the marketplace in the framework of a novel. The Choice, a novel on international trade policy and the human side of international trade, was named one of the top ten books of 1994 by Business Week and one of the best books of 1994 by the Financial Times.

A three-time teacher of the year, Roberts has taught at George Mason University, Washington University in St. Louis (where he was the founding director of what is now the Center for Experiential Learning), the University of Rochester, Stanford University, and the University of California, Los Angeles. He was a national fellow and visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution from 1985 to 1987. He holds a PhD in economics from the University of Chicago and received his undergraduate degree in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Show Notes:


(:31)  Russ’ Journey

(4:00) What is it about the economics of education?

(5:23)  Importance of School Choice

(8:24)  If you could build an educational system from scratch, what would it look like?

(13:37)  Deriving an effective educational model for developing countries

(17:10)  What gets you most excited about the future of education & learning?

(18:55)  What was your favorite interview on current issues in education?

(24:15)  Higher Ed

(29:00)  If you could have dinner with one person you admire, past or present, who would it be and why?

Christopher Hitchens, Milton Friedman & Adam Smith


EconTalk episodes on education that were mentioned:

Paul Tough on How Children Succeed

Eric Hanushek on Education & Prosperity

Doug Lemov on Teaching

Lant Pritchett on Education in Poor Countries


Ed Tech Shout Outs:

Khan Academy



Contacting/Following Russ:

Blog:  Cafe Hayek

Podcasts:  Econ Talk

Twitter:  @econtalker

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