One of the issues I didn’t hear candidates talking about was education, even though I can think of nothing that could be more powerful to job and economic growth and the antidote to growing income inequality. If you read the eye-opening stats below, I think you’ll have to agree.
Did you know that:
-The US spends more per student on primary and secondary education than all other countries with the exception of Switzerland. Sadly, in our case there seems to be an inverse correlation between amount spent and quality of education. Out of 26 OECD countries on the international PISA test, US students ranked 22nd. We were dead last in math and scored second from the bottom in physics, two subjects that are closely associated with a person’s ability to invent or innovate. Innovation has been a traditional US core competency that has driven demand for our goods at home and abroad.
-Science and engineering (S&E) Ph.D.s in the US have declined over 50% in the past ten years. Today China produces more S&E Ph.D.s than the US. Bachelor of Science degrees in science and engineering have declined 25% in the past ten years. In the US 33% of university students graduate in science or engineering, Korea 46%, China 59%, Japan 66%. The EU produces 2X the number of science and engineering graduates as the US.
– There are tons of jobs listed today in the fields of health care, technology and research, but we do not have people schooled/skilled for these jobs.
-The US used to have the highest percentage of college graduates. Today, nine countries are ranked higher.
– The US ranks 79th in the world for primary school enrollment which is 92%. Don’t let this one go by. This means that 8% of America’s school-age children are not being enrolled in primary school – not private, public or home schooling.
-Ten years ago forecasters were predicting that the US’s working age population would be declining along with Japan and western Europe. Today, this is no longer true. The reason is the growth of our Latino population.
– In 2000 Latinos represented 4% of the population. In 2010 they represent 17%.By 2050 Latinos are expected to represent 29% of the U S population. In 2008 23.5% of Latino under the age of 25 did not complete 9th grade. Another 16% didn’t finish high school, for a total drop out rate of 49.5%. With GED attainment graduation rates rise to 59%. High school graduation rates (including GED attainment) for Whites was 87% and Blacks 77%. College graduation for Latinos is 13%, Blacks 17.5%, Whites 31% and Asians 50%.
-The unemployment rate for a person without a high school diploma is 3X higher than that for someone with a bachelors degree. Today 8.7% of Whites are unemployed, Blacks 16.1%, Hispanics 12.4% and Asians 6.4%.
– There is a close correlation between wages and education. According to the 2003 census an individual who did not complete the 9th grade on average earned 30% of what an individual with a four year degree earned: $15,462 vs. $50,916. Do you know how many more goods and services someone can buy with an extra $35,000 per year?
– The ratio of income to education on average is 1X for a high school drop out, 2X for a high school graduate and 3X for a college graduate. If we had high school graduation rates that were 100%, the rise in collective income for the working age population, (I used 19-69 years of age) would augment collective income annually by $617 billion. If we were to take this same population and assume that they graduated from college the increase in income would be $1.235 trillion. Do you know how many additional jobs could be created by people being able to spend all those billions? We’d be increasing our immigration quotas to fill the demand.
-Do you know how much this would add to Social Security and Medicare? That $29 billion Social Security shortfall in 2010 would be a $10 billion surplus if our entire working age population graduated from high-school (and had jobs). Impossible? In Greece, Germany, Finland, Japan, Ireland, Korea and Norway high school graduation rates range from 90-100%.
-A household with <$50,000 in annual income and two children under 18 on average pays no taxes. This means a household that does not minimally have two high school graduates will very likely be net receivers from the government.
-The US economy is the most service-oriented in the world. Services represent over 80% of GDP, and 85% employment. The health of the US economy relies on delivering competitive services and this in turn depends on the US having the best educated workforce, but we are losing ground when we need to be gaining ground.
As a nation we have veered away from manufacturing because we could not compete with countries with lower costs. The health of our nation and our standard of living now rely on services and our ability to continue to deliver competitive services. To do this we need to restore our reputation as the country where every person can get a world-class publicly provided education, and add to this the place where anyone can afford to go to college.
We need to have a well-educated workforce today and tomorrow to fill needed jobs, to create well-paying jobs, to drive demand for our services over those of foreign competitors that will in turn create more jobs, to put a stop to a trend in growing income inequality (which is really education inequality), to keep the economy healthy, and to give retirees some comfort that the monies they have paid into social security and Medicare were a good investment. Encourage your local Congress people to stop thinking that fiscal or monetary policy will be the central driver for job creation and restoring the economy. Tell them to start thinking about education.