An Award Even Gary Becker Doesn’t Have

Hats off to economist Roland Fryer, Joel Klein, the rest of the folks in the New York City Department of Education, and Droga5 for taking home the Titanium Lion prize at the Cannes Lions advertising festival for their work on “Million.”

Million is the innovative NYC schools program that puts a specially designed cellphone into the hands of every NYC public school student.

I thought Becker had won every prize an economist could win, but now I realize he still has some work left to do.


An interesting idea. Maybe. But the video Levitt links to oversells it.

The program's website ( says, " Students will not be academically disadvantaged in any way by choosing not to participate." In other words, the phones provide no academic advantage to students.

This is not an academically focused intervention.

But is IS an interesting economic one. It is difficult for schools to convince students that their studies/classes are their jobs if they don't already have that attitude coming in. Micro-payments in the form of text and talk time might do the trick, or at least push in that direction.

Another important point: Only 7 of the over 1400 schools in the city (i.e. less than 1%) are participating, all schools known for the youth, energy and excitement of their faculties and the commitment of their students' parents. This is not a random sample of schools in which the pilot program is being tested. Even if there were strong results in these schools, there is no reason to believe that these results are generalizable to other schools.



Random curiosity: what's up with the multiple clips from "Finding Forrester" in the Million video?


hats off to anyone trying to take a lateral approach to education.
I will support anything that moves the needle. Scale it up