Monday, September 22, 2008

Are there externalities from education?

Normally Vox has some very good blog posts, but a recent one on the externalities from education has me concerned. While I am not as critical as Richard Serlin on the methods employed, I agree that this approach may be missing an important part of the larger picture.

My reading of their findings that there are not externalities from education is that there is a difference between wage changes while in equilibrium, such as the U.S., where the technology level is given, and so we would expect small spillovers from education, and changes in the equilibrium itself, where spillovers could be huge.

For instance, my added contribution from an economics education in a world where I'm just one economist in 1,000 produced every year is likely to be small.

But imagine Korea's or Silicon Valley's growth in technology. Both of these had massive spillovers to the entire economy, but, as these were massive shifts in the equilibrium use of technology, it can't be captured in a simple model. They also could not have happened without a very educated group.

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