Ideas and Education: Level or Growth Effects?

Steve Dowrick

NBER Working Paper No. 9709
Issued in May 2003
NBER Program(s):Productivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

This paper examines theory and evidence from recent studies into the contributions to economic growth of expenditure on education and on research and development. Investment in human capital has fundamentally different economic attributes to physical investment - exhibiting complementarity, positive feedback and non-rivalry - implying the potential to enhance economic growth over a long time period. In the case of education, there are debates over whether changes in educational attainment ultimately affect the long-run growth rate of the economy, or only the long-run level of output. The macroeconomic evidence on level effects is consistent with microeconomic estimates of private rates of return to schooling. It appears, however, that there are also significant long-term growth effects the more educated is the workforce, the better is it able to implement technological advances. There is consistent evidence of high social rates of return on research and development in both commercial areas of research and in more fundamental research, implying that R&D is under-resourced. A number of studies have emphasised the importance of international technology spillovers, particularly for smaller economies such as Australia.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w9709

Published: Steve Dowrick, 2004. "Ideas and Education: Level or Growth Effects and Their Implications for Australia," NBER Chapters, in: Growth and Productivity in East Asia, NBER-East Asia Seminar on Economics, Volume 13, pages 9-40 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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