Education is the answer. but, what's the question? Simple: What's the cure for any adverse economic condition?
Is your pay stagnant or declining? Quick, get more education.
Are workers failing to share in economic growth? Too bad, they should have gained more skills.
Are you worried about jobs offshored to low-wage countries? Blame schools for workers' lack of creativity.
Is the nation failing to compete globally? Raise education standards across the board.
Education as the cure-all is everywhere around us. But this contention exaggerates the role of schools in the economy, and it conflates two issues: First, how can American firms increase productivity to improve their ability to compete in the world? And second, how have the fruits of U.S. productivity growth been distributed, and what explains rising inequality?
Education can help in the first area, although it is far from a silver bullet. As to the second, education deficits have had very little to do with the changes in the distribution of wages. Fortunately, after more than two decades, the education-as-panacea argument is being overwhelmed by contradictory evidence. Perhaps we may now be able to face more clearly the separate challenges of enhancing competitiveness and reconnecting the link between productivity growth and pay.
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