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ISET Economist Blog

A blog about economics in the South Caucasus.
Apr
24

Lost from the Start

14 years ago, the American educationalists Valerie E. Lee and David Burkham published a highly noticed and controversial study titled “Inequality at the Starting Gate: Social Background Differences in Achievement as Children Begin School” (Economic Policy Institute 2002). The authors work with a sample of 16,000 children who entered US kindergartens in 1998 and 1999 and who had taken the ECLS-K entry test, measuring a children’s basic reading and mathematical skills. The authors showed that the social and economic background of a child was a reliable pre...
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Apr
11

The Samtredia Redemption

Nino Kakulia was born in Samtredia on 15 October 1991, in the last days of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. By the time Nino and independent Georgia were celebrating their 13th birthdays, the Georgian government embarked on a series of long overdue reforms, one of which was about cleansing the country’s higher education system from corruption.  This was undoubtedly an excellent and timely reform for Nino, an ambitious student in Samtredia’s school. Until then, to get admitted into a public university, Nino or, rather, her family, would have h...
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Apr
10

The Impact of Religion on Georgia’s Economy

According to a study from 2015 by WIN/Gallup, 93% of Georgians consider themselves to be religious. There is only one country in the world which has a higher rate, namely Thailand, where this number stands at 94%, while the same percentage of religious people as in Georgia could only be found in Armenia, Bangladesh, and Morocco. All other nations of the world are less enchanted about religion. Worldwide, on average only 63% of people say they are believers, and in some countries, like China and Japan, the number goes down to 7% and 13%, respectively. Giv...
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Mar
28

Why Georgia is not South Korea (or Israel)?

Back in October 2014, soon after the introduction of new visa regulations by the Georgian government, I visited Seoul, the capital of South Korea. An unpleasant surprise awaited me on the way back home at the Seoul airport. The young stewardess checked my (Israeli) passport and informed me that, according to the system, I will not be allowed to board the flight (to Istanbul) unless I show a Georgian residence card or buy a return ticket. “But I live in Georgia, and it has never been a problem to come back, nobody ever checked my ticket”, I argued. T...
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Mar
07

The Making of Nations

GOING UP … OR DOWN?  I was 13 when my family took the fateful decision to make ‘Aliyah’ to Israel back in 1977. ‘Aliyah’ (the act of going up in Hebrew) is a nice term describing Jewish ‘repatriation’ from the Diaspora (St. Petersburg, in my case) to the Holy Land. Etymologically, ‘Aliya’ originates in the ancient Israelite tradition of annual ‘pilgrimage tours’ to Jerusalem (situated almost 1km above sea level). Yet, there was very little ‘going up’ in the social status of my family during the first five years in Israel. My parents took more than t...
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