Tag Archives: massive investments

Forbes: Government Education Spending Up 7 Times & Nothing To Show For It


Solyndra’s in the classroom.

Accordingly, the “investment in education” that Obama wants more (and more, and more) of is actually “federal-government-directed investment in education”. When considering whether we really want more of this, it is important to remember that it was “federal-government-directed investment in energy” that gave us Solyndra, Ener1, and Beacon Power, and that it was “federal-government-directed investment in housing” that has cost taxpayers more than $150 billion in losses (thus far) at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

So, how would we know if increased government “investment” in education was producing a return? We would see a steady rise in the ratio of GDP to “nonresidential produced assets” over time. Our GDP is produced by a combination of physical capital and human capital. Accordingly, if the economic value of our human capital were rising, the impact would show up in the numbers as increasing productivity of physical capital.

Now, here is the bad news. While total real ($2010) government spending on education increased almost 13-fold from 1951 to 2009, the measured GDP return on physical capital actually declined slightly, from 47.7% to 44.1%. This could not have happened if we were getting an appreciable economic return on our huge “investment” in education.

What follows is a “first approximation analysis”. The numbers could be done with more precision, but they are good enough to give us an idea of what the nation has been getting (actually, not getting) for its massive “investments” in education.

Assuming that about 25% of our total population is in school at any one time, average real (2010 dollars) government spending per student rose from $1,763 in 1951 to $12,209 in 2009. This is an increase of about 7 times. Assuming an average of 13 years of education per student (some go to college, some drop out of high school), this means that during this 58-year time period, we increased our real “investment” in the human capital represented by each student from $22,913 to $158,717.


Also, imagine if, instead of being given a 2009 education for $158,717, an average student were given a 1967-style education for about $58,000, and $100,000 in capital with which to start his working life. This would be sufficient to start any number of small businesses. Alternatively, if put in an IRA earning a real return of 6%, the $100,000 would grow to about $1.8 million over 50 years.

The huge government “investments” made in education over the past 50 years have produced little more than “Solyndras in the classroom”. They have enriched teachers unions and other rent-seekers, but have added little or nothing to the economic prospects of students. America does not need more such “investment”.

Read more HERE.