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Understanding the Twentieth-Century Growth in U.S. School Spending


  • Eric A. Hanushek
  • Steven G. Rivkin


Persistent increases in spending on elementary and secondary schools have gone virtually undocumented. Real expenditure per student increased 3½ percent per year over the period 1890-1990. Decomposition of the spending growth shows that it resulted from a combination of falling pupil-staff ratios, increasing real wages to teachers, and rising expenditure outside of the classroom. Although the expansion of education for the handicapped has had a disproportionate effect on spending, most of the growth in expenditure during the 1980s came from other sources. Significant teacher salary increases, particularly for females, have failed to keep up with wages in other occupations.

Suggested Citation

  • Eric A. Hanushek & Steven G. Rivkin, 1997. "Understanding the Twentieth-Century Growth in U.S. School Spending," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 32(1), pages 35-68.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:32:y:1997:i:1:p:35-68

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Moore, Thomas Gale, 1971. "The Effect of Minimum Wages on Teenage Unemployment Rates," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 79(4), pages 897-902, July-Aug..
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    Cited by:

    1. Gundlach, Erich & Wo[beta]mann, Ludger, 2001. "The fading productivity of schooling in East Asia," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 401-417.
    2. Ferreira, Pedro Cavalcanti & Delalibera, Bruno Ricardo, 2016. "Economic growth and complementarity between stages of human capital," FGV/EPGE Economics Working Papers (Ensaios Economicos da EPGE) 779, FGV/EPGE - Escola Brasileira de Economia e Finanças, Getulio Vargas Foundation (Brazil).
    3. Shin, Jaeun & Moon, Sangho, 2006. "Fertility, relative wages, and labor market decisions: A case of female teachers," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(6), pages 591-604, December.
    4. Matthew M. Chingos & Kenneth A. Couch, 2013. "Class Size and Student Outcomes: Research and Policy Implications," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 32(2), pages 411-438, March.
    5. Chingos, Matthew M. & West, Martin R., 2011. "Promotion and reassignment in public school districts: How do schools respond to differences in teacher effectiveness?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 419-433, June.
    6. Hanushek, Eric A., 2006. "Alternative school policies and the benefits of general cognitive skills," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 447-462, August.
    7. Erich Gundlach, 2001. "Education and Economic Development: An Empirical Perspective," Journal of Economic Development, Chung-Ang Unviersity, Department of Economics, vol. 26(1), pages 37-60, June.
    8. David E. Clark & William E. Herrin & Thomas A. Knapp & Nancy E. White, 2003. "Migration and implicit amenity markets: does incomplete compensation matter?," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(3), pages 289-307, July.
    9. Gilpin, Gregory A., 2011. "Reevaluating the effect of non-teaching wages on teacher attrition," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 598-616, August.
    10. Gilpin, Gregory & Kaganovich, Michael, 2012. "The quantity and quality of teachers: Dynamics of the trade-off," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(3), pages 417-429.
    11. repec:kap:itaxpf:v:24:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10797-016-9410-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Julie Berry Cullen & Steven G. Rivkin, 2003. "The Role of Special Education in School Choice," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of School Choice, pages 67-106 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Steven G. Rivkin & Eric A. Hanushek & John F. Kain, 2005. "Teachers, Schools, and Academic Achievement," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(2), pages 417-458, March.
    14. You, Hye Mi, 2014. "The contribution of rising school quality to U.S. economic growth," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 95-106.
    15. Harris, Amy Rehder & Evans, William N. & Schwab, Robert M., 2001. "Education spending in an aging America," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(3), pages 449-472, September.

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