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Schooling and Economic Growth: What Have We Learned?


  • Theodore R. Breton



This paper explains why different studies present widely-varying estimates of the effect of increased schooling on national income. It shows that when correctly-interpreted, these studies support the hypothesis that a one-year increase in average schooling attainment raises national income directly by about 10% and indirectly by about 19%. The increases in national income are larger than the aggregate effect of higher workers’ salaries, because schooling has external effects on national income. Due to the rising cost of additional years of schooling, the national return on investment in schooling is much lower in more educated countries. The estimated real national return on investment in schooling in 2005 ranged from over 40% in the least educated countries to 8.5% in the most educated countries. Average levels of schooling and average test scores at ages 9 to 15 generally rise together, so either measure of human capital can explain differences in national income or growth rates across countries. Since the productivity of physical capital depends on the level of human capital, in a global financial market, the growth in human capital largely determines the growth in physical capital and in national income. ***** Este documento explica por qué diferentes estudios presentan ampliamente diferentes estimaciones sobre el efecto del aumento de la escolarización en la renta nacional. Esto demuestra que cuando se interpreta correctamente, estos estudios apoyan la hipótesis de que un aumento en un año en el nivel medio de escolaridad aumenta el ingreso nacional directamente en un 10% e indirectamente alrededor del 19%. Los aumentos en la renta nacional son más grandes que el efecto agregado de los salarios más altos de los trabajadores, ya que la escolarización tiene efectos externos sobre el ingreso nacional. Debido al creciente costo de los años adicionales de escolaridad, el retorno de la inversión nacional en educación es mucho menor en los países con mayor nivel educativo. El retorno nacional real estimado de la inversión en la educación en 2005 osciló entre el 40% en los países menos educados hasta el 8,5% en los países más cultos. Los niveles promedio de escolaridad y calificaciones de los exámenes a edades promedio de 9 a 15 generalmente aumentan en conjunto, así que o medida de capital humano pueden explicar las diferencias en el ingreso nacional o las tasas de crecimiento entre los países. Dado que la productividad del capital físico depende del nivel de capital humano, en un mercado financiero global, el crecimiento en capital humano determina en gran medida el crecimiento en capital físico y en el ingreso nacional.

Suggested Citation

  • Theodore R. Breton, 2014. "Schooling and Economic Growth: What Have We Learned?," Documentos de Trabajo CIEF 010923, Universidad EAFIT.
  • Handle: RePEc:col:000122:010923

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    Cited by:

    1. Juliana Arias & Alejandro Torres, 2018. "Economic efficiency of public secondary education expenditure: How different are developed and developing countries?," Revista Desarrollo y Sociedad, Universidad de los Andes - CEDE, vol. 80(4), pages 119-154, February.

    More about this item


    Schooling; Human Capital; Test Scores; Economic Growth;

    JEL classification:

    • O41 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - One, Two, and Multisector Growth Models
    • I25 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Economic Development

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