The cost of crappy education

“If the United States had in recent years closed the gap between its educational achievement levels and those of better-performing nations such as Finland and Korea, GDP in 2008 could have been $1.3 trillion to $2.3 trillion higher. This represents 9 to 16 percent of GDP.” – McKinsey report (@ Yglesias)

We currently spend about $800 billion on education each year including state and Federal spending.

I doubt we’d have to double our spending to close the gap with Finland or Korea , but even if we did, it’d likely pay for itself.


  1. Sheepywoman

    Why does it seem that everything important in America is broken or near collapse?

  2. Chris

    Complacency and greed.

  3. Ian

    While I agree with you, there should be some caution taken with talking about “better performing nations”. How is that being defined?

  4. Chris

    It’s being defined by math and science scores:

  5. Ian

    OK, while there is certainly some merit in those scores, they aren’t really the true measures of academic achievement. That is something hard to quantify. From personal experience, I can say that if a teacher teaches their students the topics on those tests and teaches them how to do well with that test format, those students generally do better. Recall how our teachers gave us tons of practice AP tests and state end of course exams. I never practiced for this test being mentioned here (PISA?).

    I’m agreeing with you, before I get jumped on and the thread goes to 40 posts of us repeating ourselves, I am just saying take those numbers with a grain of salt. The more striking numbers in that link are the ones showing the disparity between races and income levels within this country. Improving those scores would bring up the national average. That might be a more complex problem to solve than simply putting more money into education.

  6. Andrew

    “The more striking numbers in that link are the ones showing the disparity between races and income levels within this country.”

    Striking? Why does that sound familiar? Maybe because of when Adolph Hitler had his bombers striking London during the Blitz, which killed 43,000 people in the deadliest and most destructive war known to man. I think we can all see Ian’s true colors here. White, and blond.

  7. Ian


  8. Chris

    I don’t mean to say we should simply throw money at the problem, but we shouldn’t be afraid to spend more, particularly on teacher salaries.

    As for the statistics, I think it’s pretty clear from this report, and others we’ve been exposed to over the years, that American education lags behind many other wealthy nations.