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Long-Run Trends in School Productivity: Evidence From Australia

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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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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  1. Erich Gundlach & Ludger Wößmann & Jens Gmelin, 1999. "The Decline of Schooling Productivity in OECD Countries," Kiel Working Papers 926, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
  2. 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.
  3. Andrew Leigh & Chris Ryan, 2006. "How and Why has Teacher Quality Changed in Australia?," CEPR Discussion Papers 534, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  4. Jonah Rockoff, 2009. "Field Experiments in Class Size from the Early Twentieth Century," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(4), pages 211-30, Fall.
  5. Ronald Oaxaca, 1971. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," Working Papers 396, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  6. Caroline M. Hoxby, 2000. "The Effects of Class Size on Student Achievement: New Evidence from Population Variation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1239-1285.
  7. 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, vol. 18(4), pages 729-54, October.
  8. Alan B. Krueger, 2002. "Economic Considerations and Class Size," NBER Working Papers 8875, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. repec:oup:qjecon:v:123:y:2008:i:1:p:279-323 is not listed on IDEAS
  10. Buly A Cardak & Chris Ryan, 2006. "Why are high ability individuals from poor backgrounds under-represented at university?," Working Papers 2006.04, School of Economics, La Trobe University.
  11. 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, vol. 7(4), pages 481-500, December.
  12. 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.
  13. repec:oup:qjecon:v:115:y:2000:i:4:p:1239-1285 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2008. "Preschool Television Viewing and Adolescent Test Scores: Historical Evidence from the Coleman Study," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(1), pages 279-323.
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