Most of the world’s countries are undereducated

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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14 Responses

  1. Avatar Jason Kuznicki
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    The key question as I see it is: Undereducated on what margin?

    It is surprising that economists would fail to recognize this. But education has opportunity costs, and some things are sometimes, on some margins, more important. Health comes to mind, as does having a well-functioning legal system.

    I’m not prepared to say which countries are over- or undereducated. To answer that question, I’d have to know the returns on education for each country, as well as the returns on other forms of human capital development, for the next several decades. That’s a hell of a lot of knowledge for a post-Austrian economist to presume he has.Report

  2. Avatar North
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    says:

    I think I agree. My own question then, how much education will lead to increasing prosperity and how much prosperity will lead to increased education. Sortof a chicken/egg question.

    Then again, considering the success of things like micro-loans and such similar programs I’m quite prepared to believe that basic educational components can lead to enormous strides in prosperity and well being. Women who are literate have fewer children for instance.Report

    • Avatar dexter45 in reply to North
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      says:

      @North, How about education for education’s sake? I have worked construction for years and get tired of hunting stories and how funny “Jackass X” was. I could not agree more about educating the women.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to dexter45
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        @dexter45, Dex, I am no great scholar myself but I wouldn’t want to slight education for its own sake. But when we’re talking about the truly poor of the world the rub is that they really don’t have the existential margins to be interested in education for educations sake. They’re down on that first level of the pyramid working on food, shelter and health and I’d think that’d be the level we should be trying to help them on. Once they’re set up with the spare time/energy to learn for the sake of knowledge rather than the sake of utility then they should be able to on their own.Report

        • Avatar dexter45 in reply to North
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          says:

          @North, I did not know that we were only talking about the impoverished countries. I am of two minds about education in America. I know that I have a low threshold for boredom and like to learn new things or read things that make me think. I spend more time at work with the illegals because I could learn about their world. You are right about the education for the poor, but I would add a very healthly dose of birth control education. I think, at least with the people I work with, that America is not as educated enough. In America one needs a little history. For example, when Mr. Farmer speaks about the glories of the 1890 business a blue collar person needs to know that it was a great time for the paper people and not so good for and not so good for the people who made things.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to dexter45
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            says:

            @dexter45, Oh well we don’t agree much then. Yes, my musings were mostly regarding the third world though I am sure they were vaguely enough worded to not be clear. I’m with you 100% on birth control education but it’s very interesting to remember that in general education=birth control. Any kind of education (for women) has an inverse correlation with high birth rates.

            As for America, I’m sure that everyone in the country could do with some higher learning. But in America for the most part we’re past the point where organizations can provide said education to the people and are more in the phase where people need to go out and get it for themselves.Report

  3. Avatar Larry Signor
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    says:

    Those of us who started halfway up the mountain often look down from the top and wonder why the climb is so difficult for people who start from the bottom. The utility function of basic education is not something which concerns the developed world. We have food distribution systems, functioning legal systems, almost adequate health care systems, passable roads, recreation, an illusion of security, visibility concerning our future.

    It is difficult for people with our blessings to understand the need for basic agrarian education, sanitary education, education which allows for development of local governance and culture. The whole world does not need to be college educated, yet. Some folks just need to learn to read, write and add so they can learn and improve survival skills which are no longer necessary for survival in developed lands. It’s hard to sell shit to a farmer, but he/she needs to be able to read a seed catalog and an equipment repair manual.Report

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