Education Spending Does Matter

We’ve discussed Kirabo Jackson’s important work that demonstrated how the long-term effects of teachers on ‘life outcomes’ is very poorly correlated with subject matter scores–something that education ‘reformers’ seem to not discuss (odd that). Well, he’s back with a new study looking at the effects of spending on long-term outcomes (boldface mine):

A new paper from economists C. Kirabo Jackson, Rucker Johnson and Claudia Persico suggests that it is. To disentangle correlation from causation, they look at periods from 1955 through 1985 when courts ordered governments to spend more on schools, from kindergarten through 12th grade. They then track how students in those areas did, up through 2011. The result is a very detailed long-term picture of the effect of spending more money on education.

The economists find that spending works. Specifically, they find that a 10 percent increase in spending, on average, leads children to complete 0.27 more years of school, to make wages that are 7.25 percent higher and to have a substantially reduced chance of falling into poverty. These are long-term, durable results. Conclusion: throwing money at the problem works.

Here’s the hitch: The authors find that the benefits of increased spending are much stronger for poor kids than for wealthier ones. So if you, like me, are in the upper portion of the U.S. income distribution, you may be reading this and thinking: “Why should I be paying more for some poor kid to be educated?” After all, why should one person pay the cost while another reaps the benefits?

To answer Noah’s question (though he makes some good enlightened self-interest appeals), we should do this because we shouldn’t be assholes. Seriously, if you have to ask why you help an underprivileged child (to be clear, Noah is asking a rhetorical question), then you’re missing circuits in your fucking head. We flush toilets with laser beams, we can do this.

The other point worth noting is that all of the ‘throwing buckets of money at problems doesn’t work’ bullshit is, well, bullshit. Lots of children in the U.S. simply don’t have access to the same level of resources other children do. Oddly enough, this is reflected in their educational and long-term outcomes. If we refuse to harden our hearts, we can do something about that.

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