Behind the Headline: Closing Education Gap Will Lift Economy, a Study Finds

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Closing Education Gap Will Lift Economy, a Study Finds
2/3/15| New York Times

Behind the Headline
Education and Economic Growth
Spring 2008 | Education Next

A new study looks at the economic impact of raising math and science scores of U.S. students. If the achievement gap were eliminated, and lower-performing students were able to reach the same level as our highest-performing students, economic output would be boosted significantly.

A study published in the Spring 2008 issue of Education Next took a closer look at the connection between education and economic growth. The authors of that study, Eric A. Hanushek, Dean T. Jamison, Eliot A. Jamison and Ludger Woessmann, wrote

What would it mean for economic growth, then, if a country like the United States, currently performing somewhat below the average of OECD countries, managed to increase its performance by 50 points (or 0.5 standard deviations) so that it would score alongside the world leaders? (On average on the PISA 2006 math and science exams, countries such as Canada and Korea scored about 50 points higher than the U.S., Hong Kong and Taiwan about 60 points higher, and Finland as many as 74 points higher.) That increase of 50 test points is exactly what George H. W. Bush and the nation’s governors together promised in 1989 the United States would achieve by the year 2000.

Unfortunately, no such gains were realized. But had the promise been fulfilled by 2000, our results suggest that GDP would by 2015 be 4.5 percent greater than in the absence of any such gains. That 4.5 percent increment in GDP is equal to the total the U.S. currently spends on K–12 education. In other words, had that money effectively raised cognitive skills by the 50 test points that would have brought the United States close to world leadership, the economic returns to the country would probably have been enough to cover the entire cost of education in 2015 and after.

– Education Next

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