This study was prepared by Annika B. Bergbauer while she was working at the Ifo Center for the Economics of Education. It was completed in March 2019 and accepted as a doctoral thesis by the Department of Economics at the University of Munich in July 2019. It consists of four self-contained chapters that empirically analyze educational economics. The first paper relates education measures to economic development. The following three papers contribute to the understanding of student performance focusing on standardized testing, teacher specialization, and political environments. Chapter 1 motivates the topic and puts the four papers into perspective of the re-search background. Chapter 2 assesses the importance of human capital for regional development in Sub-Saharan Africa. The findings suggest a stronger correlation of development with cognitive skills than with quantitative measures of human capital, such as years of schooling. Chapter 3 investigates the achievement impact of alternative uses of student assessments. In result, the expansion of standardized external comparisons associates with improvements in student achievement. The effect of schoolbased comparison is stronger in low-performing countries. In contrast, only internal testing without external comparison and internal teacher monitoring including inspectorates do not affect student achievement. Chapter 4 investigates how teacher specialization to a field of subjects during stud-ies affects student achievement. The chapter finds that teacher specialization does raise the academic achievement of boys, but not of girls. Chapter 5 examines the influence of European Union (EU) membership of Eastern European countries on student achievement. The findings suggest a positive and statistically significant correlation of EU membership and reading scores.