Abstract

Cross‐national data show no association between increases in human capital attributable to the rising educational attainment of the labor force and the rate of growth of output per worker. This implies that the association of educational capital growth with conventional measures of total factor production is large, strongly statistically significant, and negative. These are “on average” results, derived from imposing a constant coefficient. However, the development impact of education varied widely across countries and has fallen short of expectations for three possible reasons. First, the institutional/governance environment could have been sufficiently perverse that the accumulation of educational capital lowered economic growth. Second, marginal returns to education could have fallen rapidly as the supply of educated labor expanded while demand remained stagnant. Third, educational quality could have been so low that years of schooling created no human capital. The extent and mix of these three phenomena vary from country to country in explaining the actual economic impact of education, or the lack thereof.

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