Student Achievement and National Economic Growth

Francisco O. Ramirez, Xiaowei Luo, Evan Schofer, and John W. Meyer
American Journal of Education 113
November 2006

This paper seeks to rebut Eric Hanushek and others who have argued that there is a link between the math and science achievement of nations and their economic growth. But its authors don't entirely disagree with Hanushek. They conclude "that countries with high science and mathematics achievement scores tend to grow somewhat more rapidly than other countries. This finding is consistent with the main inference reported in Hanushek and Kimko (2000) and very much in line with mainstream education policy discourse in the United States." So what's the issue? Well, these authors believe the picture is distorted by the Asian Tigers--Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan--whose strong growth in the 1980s skews the results (the data examined span 1970 through 2000). Yet even after dropping the tigers from the analysis, a correlation still exists (albeit a weaker one) between math and science achievement and growth. Perhaps this is why Hanushek told Education Week that "Their basic findings support the idea that test scores are important, even when you take out the Asian nations." The authors are right that the math-science rhetoric can become overheated at times. (Let's hear it for a broad, liberal education for all.) But at day's end this paper is little more than a debate over the strengths of the link between test scores and GDP. You can find it online here.

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