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Explaining Educational Attainment across Countries and over Time

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  • Diego Restuccia
  • Guillaume Vandenbroucke

Abstract

Consider the following facts. In 1950 the richest ten-percent of countries attained an average of 8.1 years of schooling whereas the poorest ten-percent of countries attained 1.3 years, a 6-fold difference. By 2005, the difference in schooling declined to 2-fold. The fact is that schooling has increased faster in poor than in rich countries. What explains educational attainment differences across countries and their evolution over time? We develop an otherwise standard model of human capital accumulation with two novel but important features: non-homotetic preferences and an operating labor supply margin. We use the model to assess the quantitative contribution of productivity and life expectancy differences across countries in explaining educational attainment. Calibrating the parameters of the model to reproduce the historical time-series data for the United States, we find that the model accounts for 96 percent of the difference in schooling levels between rich and poor countries in 1950 and 89 percent of the increase in schooling over time in poor countries. The model generates a faster increase in schooling in poor than in rich countries consistent with the data. These results highlight the role of development in education and thus have important implications for educational policy.

Suggested Citation

  • Diego Restuccia & Guillaume Vandenbroucke, 2013. "Explaining Educational Attainment across Countries and over Time," Working Papers tecipa-469, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:tecipa-469
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    Cited by:

    1. Gonzalo Castex, 2017. "College risk and return," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 26, pages 91-112, October.
    2. Diego Restuccia & Guillaume Vandenbroucke, 2013. "A Century Of Human Capital And Hours," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 51(3), pages 1849-1866, July.
    3. Córdoba, Juan Carlos & Ripoll, Marla, 2013. "What explains schooling differences across countries?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 184-202.
    4. Dragomirescu-Gaina, Catalin & Elia, Leandro & Weber, Anke, 2015. "A fast-forward look at tertiary education attainment in Europe 2020," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 37(5), pages 804-819.
    5. 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).
    6. Alexander Bick & Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln & David Lagakos, 2018. "How Do Hours Worked Vary with Income? Cross-Country Evidence and Implications," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 108(1), pages 170-199, January.
    7. Lutz Hendricks & Christopher Herrington & Todd Schoellman, 2016. "The Changing Roles of Family Income and Academic Ability for US College Attendance," Working Papers 1602, VCU School of Business, Department of Economics, revised Apr 2017.
    8. Edgar Cruz & Xavier Raurich, 2018. "Leisure Time and the Sectoral Composition of Employment," UB Economics Working Papers 2018/373, Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat d'Economia i Empresa, UB Economics.
    9. repec:cen:wpaper:12-12 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Restuccia, Diego, 2014. "Barriers to capital accumulation in a model of technology adoption and schooling," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 81-91.
    11. Emin Dinlersoz & Jeremy Greenwood, 2012. "The Rise And Fall Of Unions In The U.S," Working Papers 12-12r, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau, revised Jun 2013.
    12. Brückner, Markus & Gradstein, Mark, 2013. "Income and schooling," CEPR Discussion Papers 9365, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    13. Bick, Alexander & Fuchs-Schündeln, Nicola & Lagakos, David, 2016. "How do Average Hours Worked Vary with Development? Cross-Country Evidence and Implications," CEPR Discussion Papers 11092, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    14. Diego Restuccia, 2013. "The Latin American Development Problem: An Interpretation," ECONOMIA JOURNAL, THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION - LACEA, vol. 0(Spring 20), pages 69-108, January.
    15. Vogel, Edgar, 2011. "Human Capital and the Demographic Transition: Why Schooling Became Optimal," MEA discussion paper series 11247, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
    16. Todd Schoellman & Christopher Herrington & Lutz Hendricks, 2015. "Family Background, Academic Ability, and College Decisions in the 20th Century U.S," 2015 Meeting Papers 465, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    17. repec:eee:eecrev:v:102:y:2018:i:c:p:169-187 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    schooling; productivity; life expectancy; education policy; labor supply;

    JEL classification:

    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O4 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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