IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Goldin and Katz and Education Policy Failings in Historical Perspective


  • Arnold Kling
  • John Merrifield


In The Race Between Education and Technology, Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz employ a powerful theoretical framework to investigate how inequality is affected by the interrelation between changes in technology and changes in job-market skills. The investigation is carried out with great vision and a combination of scholarly methods. In this review essay, we embrace the theoretical core of the book, but find a number of problems in the execution. We see a need to distinguish between attending school and acquiring the pertinent skills; we criticize the way that Goldin and Katz talk about “years of schooling†as a continuous variable, when the underlying phenomenon is that the combination of high school graduation rates and college attendance rates increased more slowly after 1970 primarily because of a slowdown in the former, a slowdown which was arithmetically driven by the fact that high school graduation rates can only go up to 100 percent. We criticize the way they break up time periods in a way that buries the productivity acceleration of 1990-2005. This increase in productivity growth suggests that in the race between education and technology the speed of the latter is more important than the slowdown of the former. We see a need to recognize the profound institutional changes that occurred during the twentieth century, for their consequences can help to explain why the populations’ skills are not “keeping up†with technology. Finally, Goldin and Katz make a reasonable argument that the wage premium for college graduates would be lower if more young people earned qualitymaintained college degrees. However, at the margin, sending additional students to college probably does little or nothing to increase the number of successful college graduates.

Suggested Citation

  • Arnold Kling & John Merrifield, 2009. "Goldin and Katz and Education Policy Failings in Historical Perspective," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 6(1), pages 2-20, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:ejw:journl:v:6:y:2009:i:1:p:2-20

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Card, David, 2001. "Estimating the Return to Schooling: Progress on Some Persistent Econometric Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(5), pages 1127-1160, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Human capital; skill-biased technological change; college wage premium; education policy;

    JEL classification:

    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • D33 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Factor Income Distribution


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ejw:journl:v:6:y:2009:i:1:p:2-20. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Jason Briggeman). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.