Are tiger moms good for the American economy?

The search for better economic policy.
Feb. 9 2011 1:38 PM

Mary Gates and Karen Zuckerberg Weren't Tiger Moms

Is the Amy Chua approach bad for the American economy?

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Of course, it's hard to invent Facebook or design the iPhone without developing sound foundations in math and science, the kind of preparation that Gates, Zuckerberg, and others born to privilege receive in America's elite private schools. The dismal showing of American students in international tests implies that we're limiting the pool of possible innovators by failing to provide this training to most children.

It also doesn't mean that tiger moms should be any more forgiving in strict violin practice schedules or demands for A+'s in everything (except gym and art): That depends on whether they're willing to give up stronger prospects of Ivy League acceptance for the long shot of producing the next Bill Gates. But for the American economy to exploit its relative advantages fully, we may in fact be better off with a few more easygoing parents and fewer tiger moms.

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Ray Fisman is a professor of economics at the Columbia Business School and co-author of The Org: The Underlying Logic of the Office. Follow him on Twitter.