For more than three decades, the United States has been scoring below the international average among participating nations on tests of math and science achievement. Again and again, civic leaders have pointed to this fact when warning that a crisis in American education may imperil continued growth in economic productivity.

Yet after two decades of nearly uninterrupted boom times, the United States remains the most prosperous nation in the world.

What’s the relationship between education and economic growth? If the educational rain falls, do the flowers automatically bloom?

After looking at international evidence on the impact of educational quality on economic productivity, Eric A. Hanushek finds a tight, if delayed connection. Unless the United States does a mid-course correction, a price will eventually have to be paid.

Focusing on the developing world, William Easterly finds a much more loosely coupled tie. So many other factors affect growth that more schooling, by itself, is no panacea. Building schools in an economic wasteland does little good.

Last updated July 23, 2007