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Long-Run Trends in School Productivity: Evidence From Australia

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  • Andrew Leigh
  • Chris Ryan

Abstract

Outside the United States (U.S.), very little is known about long-run trends in school productivity. We present new evidence using two data series from Australia, where comparable tests are available back to the 1960s. For young teenagers (aged 13-14), we find a small but statistically significant fall in numeracy over the period 1964- 2003, and in both literacy and numeracy over the period 1975-1998. The decline is in the order of one-tenth to one-fifth of a standard deviation. Adjusting this decline for changes in student demographics does not affect this conclusion; if anything, the decline appears to be more acute. The available evidence also suggests that any changes in student attitudes, school violence, and television viewing are unlikely to have had a major impact on test scores. Real per-child school expenditure increased substantially over this period, implying a fall in school productivity. Although we cannot account for all the phenomena that might have affected school productivity, we identify a number of plausible explanations.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 618.

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Date of creation: Aug 2009
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Handle: RePEc:auu:dpaper:618

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Keywords: education production function; literacy; numeracy;

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  1. Gundlach, Erich & Wossmann, Ludger & Gmelin, Jens, 2001. "The Decline of Schooling Productivity in OECD Countries," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(471), pages C135-47, May.
  2. Jonah Rockoff, 2009. "Field Experiments in Class Size from the Early Twentieth Century," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 23(4), pages 211-30, Fall.
  3. Buly A Cardak & Chris Ryan, 2006. "Why are high ability individuals from poor backgrounds under-represented at university?," Working Papers, School of Economics, La Trobe University 2006.04, School of Economics, La Trobe University.
  4. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2008. "Preschool Television Viewing and Adolescent Test Scores: Historical Evidence from the Coleman Study," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 123(1), pages 279-323, 02.
  5. Alan B. Krueger, 2002. "Economic Considerations and Class Size," NBER Working Papers 8875, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Caroline M. Hoxby, 2000. "The Effects Of Class Size On Student Achievement: New Evidence From Population Variation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1239-1285, November.
  7. Chris Ryan & Louise Watson, 2004. "Year 12 Completion and Retention in Australia in the 1990s," Australian Journal of Labour Economics (AJLE), Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC), Curtin Business School, Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC), Curtin Business School, vol. 7(4), pages 481-500, December.
  8. Martin Weale, 2007. "Following the Atkinson Review: the quality of public sector output," Economic and Labour Market Review, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 1(7), pages 22-26, July.
  9. Eliot A. Jamison & Dean T. Jamison & Eric A. Hanushek, 2006. "The Effects of Education Quality on Income Growth and Mortality Decline," NBER Working Papers 12652, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Cook, Michael D & Evans, William N, 2000. "Families or Schools? Explaining the Convergence in White and Black Academic Performance," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(4), pages 729-54, October.
  11. Andrew Leigh & Chris Ryan, 2006. "How and Why has Teacher Quality Changed in Australia?," CEPR Discussion Papers, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University 534, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  12. Oaxaca, Ronald, 1973. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 693-709, October.
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