IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Explaining Educational Attainment across Countries and over Time

  • Guillaume Vandenbroucke

    (University of Iowa)

  • Diego Restuccia

    (University of Toronto)

Consider the following facts. In 1950 rich countries attained an average of 8.1 years of schooling whereas poor countries attained 1.3 years --a 6-fold difference. By 2005, the difference in schooling declined to 2-fold even though the per-capita income gap did not decrease. What explains educational attainment across countries and their evolution over time? We develop a model of human capital accumulation to quantitatively assess the importance of productivity, life expectancy, and growth in explaining educational attainment across countries and over time. Calibrating the parameters of the model to reproduce historical data in the United States, we find that the model accounts for 86 percent of the difference in schooling levels between rich and poor countries in 1950 and 80 percent of the increase in schooling over time in poor countries. The model generates a faster increase in schooling in poor relative to rich economies even if their income gap does not decrease. These results have important implications for educational policy.

To our knowledge, this item is not available for download. To find whether it is available, there are three options:
1. Check below under "Related research" whether another version of this item is available online.
2. Check on the provider's web page whether it is in fact available.
3. Perform a search for a similarly titled item that would be available.

Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2011 Meeting Papers with number 315.

in new window

Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:red:sed011:315
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Society for Economic Dynamics Marina Azzimonti Department of Economics Stonybrook University 10 Nicolls Road Stonybrook NY 11790 USA

Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Diego Restuccia & Guillaume Vandenbroucke, 2012. "The Evolution of Education: A Macroeconomic Analysis," Working Papers tecipa-464, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  2. Yoram Ben-Porath, 1967. "The Production of Human Capital and the Life Cycle of Earnings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 352.
  3. Fatih Guvenen & Burhanettin Kuruscu, 2007. "A Quantitative Analysis of the Evolution of the U.S. Wage Distribution: 1970-2000," NBER Working Papers 13095, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Córdoba, Juan Carlos & Ripoll, Marla, 2013. "What explains schooling differences across countries?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 184-202.
  5. George Psacharopoulos & Harry Anthony Patrinos, 2004. "Returns to investment in education: a further update," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(2), pages 111-134.
  6. Peter J. Klenow & Mark Bils, 2000. "Does Schooling Cause Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1160-1183, December.
  7. Michael Huberman & Frank Lewis, 2007. "Bend it like Beckham: Hours and Wages across Forty-Eight Countries in 1900," Working Papers 1229, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  8. Greenwood, Jeremy & Seshadri, Ananth, 2005. "Technological Progress and Economic Transformation," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 19, pages 1225-1273 Elsevier.
  9. Alan S Blinder & Yoram Weiss, 1974. "Human Capital and Labor Supply: A Synthesis," Working Papers 435, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  10. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson, 2006. "Disease and Development: The Effect of Life Expectancy on Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 12269, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Piyabha Kongsamut & Sergio Rebelo & Danyang Xie, 1997. "Beyond Balanced Growth," NBER Working Papers 6159, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Jacob A. Mincer, 1974. "Schooling, Experience, and Earnings," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number minc74-1, September.
  13. Seema Jayachandran & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2008. "Life Expectancy and Human Capital Investments: Evidence From Maternal Mortality Declines," NBER Working Papers 13947, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Douglas Gollin & Stephen Parente & Richard Rogerson, 2002. "The Role of Agriculture in Development," Department of Economics Working Papers 2002-09, Department of Economics, Williams College.
  15. Andres Erosa & Tatyana Koreshkova & Diego Restuccia, 2009. "How Important is Human Capital? A Quantitative Theory Assessment of World Income Inequality," Working Papers 09007, Concordia University, Department of Economics, revised Mar 2009.
  16. Barro, Robert J. & Lee, Jong Wha, 2013. "A new data set of educational attainment in the world, 1950–2010," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 184-198.
  17. Gary S. Becker, 1962. "Investment in Human Capital: A Theoretical Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70, pages 9.
  18. James R. Markusen, 2010. "Putting Per-Capita Income Back into Trade Theory," NBER Working Papers 15903, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Rodrigo R. Soares, 2005. "Mortality Reductions, Educational Attainment, and Fertility Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 580-601, June.
  20. Richard Rogerson, 2008. "Structural Transformation and the Deterioration of European Labor Market Outcomes," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(2), pages 235-259, 04.
  21. Esther Duflo, 2000. "Schooling and Labor Market Consequences of School Construction in Indonesia: Evidence from an Unusual Policy Experiment," NBER Working Papers 7860, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(1), pages 7-72, March.
  23. John W. Kendrick, 1961. "Productivity Trends in the United States," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kend61-1, September.
  24. Diego Restuccia & Guillaume Vandenbroucke, 2012. "A Century of Human Capital and Hours," Working Papers tecipa-450, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  25. Robert J. Hodrick & Edward Prescott, 1981. "Post-War U.S. Business Cycles: An Empirical Investigation," Discussion Papers 451, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  26. Ogaki, Masao, 1992. "Engel's Law and Cointegration," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(5), pages 1027-46, October.
  27. Ellen R. McGrattan & Richard Rogerson & Randall Wright, 1995. "An equilibrium model of the business cycle with household production and fiscal policy," Staff Report 191, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  28. Lee, Donghoon & Wolpin, Kenneth I., 2010. "Accounting for wage and employment changes in the US from 1968-2000: A dynamic model of labor market equilibrium," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 156(1), pages 68-85, May.
  29. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2007. "Measuring Trends in Leisure: The Allocation of Time Over Five Decades," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 969-1006.
  30. Barro, R.J., 1989. "Economic Growth In A Cross Section Of Countries," RCER Working Papers 201, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  31. James J. Heckman & Lance Lochner & Christopher Taber, 1998. "Explaining Rising Wage Inequality: Explorations with a Dynamic General Equilibrium Model of Labor Earnings with Heterogeneous Agents," NBER Working Papers 6384, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  32. Margarida Duarte & Diego Restuccia, 2006. "The Role of the Structural Transformation in Aggregate Productivity," 2006 Meeting Papers 415, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  33. Hendricks, Lutz A., 2002. "How Important is Human Capital for Development? Evidence from Immigrant Earnings," Staff General Research Papers Archive 11409, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  34. Maddison, Angus, 1987. "Growth and Slowdown in Advanced Capitalist Economies: Techniques of Quantitative Assessment," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 25(2), pages 649-98, June.
  35. Moshe Hazan, 2009. "Longevity and Lifetime Labor Supply: Evidence and Implications," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(6), pages 1829-1863, November.
  36. Atkeson, Andrew & Ogaki, Masao, 1996. "Wealth-varying intertemporal elasticities of substitution: Evidence from panel and aggregate data," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 507-534, December.
  37. Richard Rogerson, 2006. "Understanding Differences in Hours Worked," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 9(3), pages 365-409, July.
  38. John Laitner, 2000. "Structural Change and Economic Growth," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 67(3), pages 545-561.
  39. Jacob A. Mincer, 1974. "Introduction to "Schooling, Experience, and Earnings"," NBER Chapters, in: Schooling, Experience, and Earnings, pages 1-4 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  40. Ellen R. McGrattan & Richard Rogerson, 2004. "Changes in hours worked, 1950?2000," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Jul, pages 14-33.
  41. Todd Schoellman, 2012. "Education Quality and Development Accounting," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(1), pages 388-417.
  42. Huberman, Michael & Minns, Chris, 2007. "The times they are not changin': Days and hours of work in Old and New Worlds, 1870-2000," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 44(4), pages 538-567, October.
  43. Jacob A. Mincer, 1974. "Age and Experience Profiles of Earnings," NBER Chapters, in: Schooling, Experience, and Earnings, pages 64-82 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  44. 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.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:red:sed011:315. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Christian Zimmermann)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.