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Skill-Specific rather than General Education: A Reason for US--Europe Growth Differences?

  • Dirk Krueger

    ()

  • Krishna B. Kumar

    ()

In this paper, we develop a model of technology adoption and economic growth in which households optimally obtain either a concept-based, "general" education or a skill-specific, "vocational" education. General education is costly to obtain, but enables workers to operate new production technologies. Firms weigh the cost of adopting and operating new technologies against increased profits and optimally choose the level of adoption. We show that an economy whose policies favor vocational education will grow slower in equilibrium than one that favors general education. More importantly, the gap between their growth rates will increase with the growth rate of available technology. By characterizing the optimal Ramsey education policy we also demonstrate that the optimal subsidy for general education increases with the growth rate of available technology. Our theory suggests that European education policies that favored specialized, vocational education might have worked well, both in terms of growth rates and welfare, during the 1960s and 1970s when available technologies changed slowly. However, in the information age of the 1980s and 1990s when new technologies emerged at a more rapid pace, they might have contributed to an increased growth gap relative to the United States.

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Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Economic Growth.

Volume (Year): 9 (2004)
Issue (Month): 2 (06)
Pages: 167-207

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Handle: RePEc:kap:jecgro:v:9:y:2004:i:2:p:167-207
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  1. Galor, Oded & Tsiddon, Daniel, 1996. "Technological Progress, Mobility, and Economic Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 1413, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  9. Christopher Gust & Jaime Marquez, 2000. "Productivity developments abroad," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Oct, pages 665-681.
  10. Andreas Hornstein & Per Krusell, 1996. "Can Technology Improvements Cause Productivity Slowdowns?," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1996, Volume 11, pages 209-276 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Kevin J. Stiroh, 2002. "Information Technology and the U.S. Productivity Revival: What Do the Industry Data Say?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1559-1576, December.
  12. Bartel, Ann P & Lichtenberg, Frank R, 1987. "The Comparative Advantage of Educated Workers in Implementing New Technology," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 69(1), pages 1-11, February.
  13. Stefano Scarpetta & Andrea Bassanini & Dirk Pilat & Paul Schreyer, 2000. "Economic Growth in the OECD Area: Recent Trends at the Aggregate and Sectoral Level," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 248, OECD Publishing.
  14. Young, Alwyn, 1993. "Invention and Bounded Learning by Doing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 443-72, June.
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  16. Benhabib, Jess & Spiegel, Mark M., 1994. "The role of human capital in economic development evidence from aggregate cross-country data," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 143-173, October.
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