Most interesting passage I read today


A startling and profoundly important fact about the US economy has received surprisingly little attention. The educational quality of the country’s workers is starting to decline – not just relatively (because other countries are catching up and moving ahead) but also, for the first time, in absolute terms. Over the coming years, baby-boomers departing from the labour force will have better educational qualifications than the younger workers replacing them. If the ultimate source of an economy’s ability to grow and prosper is its human capital, the US is in trouble…

That’s Clive Crook writing in the FT. He goes on to note that countries like Canada and South Korea have higher proportions of younger workers with college education than does the US. How to explain the US numbers? He runs through some scenarios, and ends up concluding that the primary cause is the declining high school graduation rate.

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Most interesting passage I read today

  1. I saw a presentation at a conference on this same subject – the speaker’s tagline was that “the Baby Boomers are the first generation in the American history who failed to ensure their children are better educated than themselves.”

  2. Canadian companies should keep their balance sheets strong and diversify into labour-saving productivity investments, until the time comes when American companies can’t get the workforce they need, and become available and firesale prices.
    Obama might ruin it all by bringing some competance and educational funding into the Whitehouse. If Obama loses, we’ll have the opportunity to force polite Canadian culture down their throats.

  3. He didn’t really engage with the saturation argument: if the US subsidizes university less (vs eg Germany, with free tuition), then naturally their attendance would be less than some other countries.

    However, elementary and high school reforms can address both the dropout rate and saturation: it seems logical that one’s ability to actually benefit from university depends on one’s previous education.

    Charter schools and other competition seem like the best way to go. In principle the system could just be fixed, but Mancur Olson would say otherwise.

  4. Andrew Potter: thanks for the close of the week story and pics. Nothing like puppy dog heroics to make us smile, especially in Afghanistan.

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