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Elliott R. Morss
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Elliott Morss has spent most of his career teaching and working as an economic consultant to developing countries on issues of trade, finance, and environmental preservation. Dr. Morss received a B.A. from Williams College in 1960 and a Ph.D. in political economy from The Johns Hopkins... More
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  • Education and Inequality: Global and Local 1 comment
    Dec 23, 2010 1:56 PM
    by Elliott R. Morss, Ph.D.
     
    Introduction
     
    The latest global results on reading, math and science achievements have just been reported by the OECD[1]. These educational achievements of young people are probably a pretty good leading indicator on how countries will fare in the 21st Century. In this article, these results are coupled with information on income inequality to draw interesting conclusions.
     
    Education
     
    The test scores for selected countries are presented in Table 1. They are ranked by the final column – the average score on all three subjects.
     
    Table 1. – Education Test Score Results, 2009
    Country
    Science
    Math
    Reading
    Average
    Hong Kong-China
    549
    555
    533
    546
    Finland
    554
    541
    536
    544
    Korea
    538
    546
    539
    541
    Japan
    539
    529
    520
    529
    Canada
    529
    527
    524
    527
    New Zealand
    532
    519
    521
    524
    Australia
    527
    514
    515
    519
    Netherlands
    522
    526
    508
    519
    Switzerland
    517
    534
    501
    517
    Estonia
    528
    512
    501
    514
    Germany
    520
    513
    497
    510
    Belgium
    507
    515
    506
    509
    Macao-China
    511
    525
    487
    508
    Poland
    508
    495
    500
    501
    Norway
    500
    498
    503
    500
    United Kingdom
    514
    492
    494
    500
    Denmark
    499
    503
    495
    499
    France
    498
    497
    496
    497
    Ireland
    508
    487
    496
    497
    United States
    502
    487
    500
    496
    Sweden
    495
    494
    497
    495
    Portugal
    493
    487
    489
    490
    Italy
    489
    483
    486
    486
    Spain
    488
    483
    481
    484
    Greece
    470
    466
    483
    473
    Russia
    478
    468
    459
    468
     
    What do these findings tell us? Note the dominance of Asian countries at the top of the table. And note where most European countries and the US end up. Europe and the US had a tremendous head start on other nations. But now, does anyone in Europe or the US really care about how well educated their children are? These finding suggest the answer is no.
     
    Does the amount spent per student in primary and secondary school influence scores? It does. For the 25 countries that the OECD has both scores and per student expenditure data, expenditures are positively correlated with scores and explain 47% of the variance in scores.  
     
    Table 2 provides information on average scores and total primary and secondary school expenditures per student for selected countries.
     
    Table 2. – Test Scores and Student Expenditures[2]
     
    Country
    Average Scores
     
    Expenditures
    Finland
    544
    14,063
    Korea
    541
    13,297
    Japan
    529
    16,007
    New Zealand
    524
    10,608
    Netherlands
    519
    16,800
    Switzerland
    517
    23,193
    Estonia
    514
    8,927
    Germany
    510
    13,390
    Belgium
    509
    16,355
    Poland
    501
    7,653
    Norway
    500
    21,919
    United Kingdom
    500
    17,114
    Denmark
    499
    18,851
    Ireland
    497
    16,276
    France
    497
    15,576
    United States
    496
    21,531
    Sweden
    495
    17,481
    Portugal
    490
    11,845
    Italy
    486
    15,387
    Spain
    484
    15,263
     
    Does the pattern seen in Table 2 look familiar? For anyone who has read my pieces on US health care, it does. The US spends tremendous amounts on health and education with a small return.
     
    Education and Income Inequality
     
    I hypothesize that educational attainment and income inequality are related: in countries with high income inequality, test scores will be lower. What is the basis for this hypothesis? In all countries, most students attend public school. But in countries with high income inequality, rich families will send their kids to private schools: and as a result, they don’t care about the quality of public schools and won’t want to support them.
     
    What is the evidence? The Gini Coefficient measures income inequality. A Gini with a zero value means everyone has the same income. As the Gini increases, income inequality grows. Using a sample of 56 countries and data from the OECD, the Gini coefficient explains 22% of the variation in average educational attainment: as the Gini (income inequality) grows, educational attainment falls.
     
    US Youth
     
    Two final points on young Americans:
     
    • nearly 25% of students fail the written exam to join the US military;
    • 75 percent of those aged 17 to 24 don't qualify for the military because they are physically unfit (25% of American youths are obese), have a criminal record or didn't graduate high school.


    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.
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  • richardnday
    , contributor
    Comments (7) | Send Message
     
    What a sad report on the effectiveness of education in the United States. I don't expect that it will improve much in the near future, either.

     

    However, I do believe that the U.S will spend more of the people's tax dollars to support a failed education hierarchy.

     

    Until we reform our education system, spending more money on education won't improve the results.
    23 Dec 2010, 04:28 PM Reply Like
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