Education and Economics: Flip Sides, Same Coin – by Roger Stark

Education and economics are one and the same thing, turned inside out.  I first remember hearing that from President George W. Bush.  If we don’t have an educated society, we won’t be able to maintain our economic leadership in the world. 

One perspective on this issue is to look at what’s happening in education in other countries.  Consider that 25% of all graduates in China are engineers.  That number is only 10% in the U.S.  But the population of China is perhaps four times that of the U.S. which means that they are graduating not two and a half times as many engineers but ten times as many. 

And that logic would hold if, in fact, all our students actually got through high school or college.  Unfortunately they don’t.  For some minority populations, only about 50% of the children who enter first grade actually graduate from high school.  To think about this another way, a student drops out of school every 9 seconds in the U.S.   

How is this an economic problem?  to look at the problem is to consider the financial burden here at home from failing to educate such a large percent of our population.  The costs in welfare, prison, lost tax revenue and other societal costs are overwhelming. I heard one economist recently say that for every dollar we don’t spend on education, we will spend seven later on social programs for those who are unable to participate in our economy.

Until the average person sees their life and their future tied to the person that’s the least well-off, the poorest, most downtrodden, we’re never going to get out of this cycle of paying for failing to make them self-sufficient.  And education is the only way to do that.


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