Saturday, April 19, 2008

Has Education Spending Really Skyrocketed?

I just read a post at D-Ed Reckoning about the astronomical increases in per-pupil education spending over the past century. Though expenditures rose in terms of real dollars, I wondered how they compared to the GDP of the U.S. So I found data on the GDP of the U.S. since 1940 (here) and combined the two. The results are above. As a percentage of GDP, per-pupil expenditures (other than a drop during WWII) have stayed almost exactly flat over the past 65 years. The chart is a bit small, but if you click on it then you can see a larger version.

The question remains over what the most relevant comparison is over time. The fact that per-pupil spending relative to GDP has remained the same over time indicates that we're putting forth about the same financial effort relative to our capacity to spend, but if our capacity to spend has increased then we might still expect larger gains in achievement over that time. On the other hand, increased spending capacity should also increase the country's discretionary income -- apparently we've chosen to spend that on items other than education.

Update: More on this in a follow-up post

Later update: Corrected version of the graph (oops) here


KDeRosa said...

But why should education spending remain at the same percentage of GDP? Even military spending consumes a lesser percentage of GDP.

Corey Bunje Bower said...

Well, it depends on how you view education. As GDP rises a country should have to spend less of its income on necessities(e.g. roads, military) but can afford to spend more money on luxuries b/c there is more disposable income. If you think that quality education is a necessity regardless of how rich/poor a country is then you'd expect it to shrink as a percentage of GDP as a country grew. If you view education as more of a luxury good -- something that an extremely poor country can't afford but that a rich country can afford to do very well -- then you'd expect it to rise over time. I'll explain this better on my blog.

Jason Giannitti said...

Also, one needs to see education as an investment. The country can't expect to progress if the money isn't being spent on education. The investment now in education can also provide, if not cover itself, later on by getting uneducated off welfare, allowing people to earn more money thereby spending and taxing more, ect. I'd also like to think it would concentrate less money at the top and have a more equal distribution of wealth (although that's a pipe dream).

Unknown said...

A meaningless post, using dishonest numbers. The percentage of GDP means nothing; the raw dollars do.

yarrr!! said...

rightwingerprof, ur dumb. the raw dollors dont mean a thing. say you have million dollors only one student? or what if you have 3 million and 3000 students.