Research finds improved K-12 education spurs economic growth

Brookings Institution scholar Robert E. Litan discusses important research linking improvements in K-12 education to economic growth. (The original post, which we missed, was in the Wall Street Journal.)

…there is one surefire way, at least in principle, to boost growth and improve equity: by improving the quality of K-12 education (emphasis on quality).

The evidence is compelling.

Research by a longtime expert on the economics of education, Erik Hanushek of the Hoover Institution, and professor Ludger Woessmann of the Ifo Institute for Economic Research in Germany discusses evidence from across that world that national average student performance at age 15 on an internationally standardized mathematics test is predictive of that nation’s future economic growth. The authors’ statistical analysis shows that math abilities are most highly correlated with economic growth …

Lifting low-achieving students pays significant dividends, for them and for the economy.

If we were able to bring poorly performing students to a score of 400–remember, the average score is 500–the U.S. would enjoy cumulative additional output over the next two decades of $72 trillion. That’s roughly four times annual GDP. Moreover, the narrowing of the skills gap that such an achievement would imply would also help narrow income disparities, an issue that’s weighing on many Americans and policy makers.

Our Achieve priority emphasizes the importance of boosting academic achievement. We also last fall, in our research report, wrote of the economic benefits of postsecondary education.

As important as it is for individuals, higher education also pays off for communities. A study by The Milken Institute found that adding just one extra year to the average years of schooling among employed workers in a metro area is associated with a real per-capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increase of 10.5 percent and an increase in real wages per worker of 8.4 percent.

This new research makes the critical connection between the quality of K-12 performance, a precursor certainly of postsecondary success. But also valuable in its own right. 

Fortunately, there’s evidence of improvement.

Pew Research Center has found today’s American students as a whole to be more diverse and on track to be better educated than their parents and grandparents.

Follow the link for five fascinating facts about America’s students.