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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. Daron Acemoglu, 2001. "Directed Technical Change," NBER Working Papers 8287, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Lars Ljungqvist & Thomas J. Sargent, 1995. "The European unemployment dilemma," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues 95-17, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  3. Paul Schreyer, 2000. "The Contribution of Information and Communication Technology to Output Growth: A Study of the G7 Countries," OECD Science, Technology and Industry Working Papers 2000/2, OECD Publishing.
  4. Young, Alwyn, 1993. "Invention and Bounded Learning by Doing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 443-72, June.
  5. 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.
  6. Per Krusell & Lee E. Ohanian & JosÈ-Victor RÌos-Rull & Giovanni L. Violante, 2000. "Capital-Skill Complementarity and Inequality: A Macroeconomic Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(5), pages 1029-1054, September.
  7. Kevin M. Murphy & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1990. "The Allocation of Talent: Implications for Growth," NBER Working Papers 3530, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. 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.
  9. Gould, Eric D & Moav, Omer & Weinberg, Bruce A, 2001. " Precautionary Demand for Education, Inequality, and Technological Progress," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 6(4), pages 285-315, December.
  10. Galor, Oded & Tsiddon, Daniel, 1997. "Technological Progress, Mobility, and Economic Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 363-82, June.
  11. Lazear, Edward, 2003. "Entrepreneurship," IZA Discussion Papers 760, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  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. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2000. "Ability-Biased Technological Transition, Wage Inequality, And Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(2), pages 469-497, May.
  15. Kevin J. Stiroh, 2001. "Information technology and the U.S. productivity revival: what do the industry data say?," Staff Reports 115, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  16. 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.
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