facebook linkedin twitter

A Think Twice Review of:

Increasing Education: What it Will and Will Not Do for Earnings and Earnings Inequality

Think Twice - May 18, 2015

Publisher/Think Tank - The Hamilton Project

Author(s) - Brad Hershbein, Melissa S. Kearney, and Lawrence H. Summers

A recent report from the Hamilton Project sought to study how public investment in education will further long-term prosperity, economic growth, and individual economic security. The inquiry focused on whether or not a bachelor’s degree or higher education would increase economic prosperity and reduce economic inequality.

Reviewer(s) - Marvin Lazerson, Central European University and University of Pennsylvania; and Ryan Pfleger, University of Colorado Boulder

In the review, the authors find that the report and its assertions are straightforward and use an empirically-based simulation for future projections. However, the report has several limitations. Specifically, Marvin Lazerson and Ryan Pfleger find the following insufficiencies: (1) there is little direct evidence in the report to show that increasing educational attainment is the most “efficient and effective,” as the report describes, way to improve prosperity; (2) the data are drawn are only from males, with no attention paid to gender, race, field of study, labor-market conditions, or institutional reputation; and (3) no data were analyzed to evaluate other ways to address economic problems. The reviewers conclude, “Claiming that the primary solution to a wide array of economic problems is to improve ‘human capital,’ the report perpetuates a problematic myth that undervalues alternative ways to address poverty and economic insecurity.”