Returns to Education Turns 50 Event Replay (News and Research 333)

ECA Talk: Returns to Education Turns 50 on March 29, 2023, Event Replay. Watch the discussion from earlier this week reassessing progress made on measuring the benefits of education 50 years after the publication of George Psacharopoulos’ pivotal study Returns to Education. Timestamps for remarks and panel discussions during the event replay are marked under the Agenda tab.

George Psacharopoulos made reference to several seminal studies. His own book:

Psacharopoulos, G. 1973. Returns to Education: An International Comparison. Elsevier.

Papers by Psacharopoulos cited in his address:

Psacharopoulos, G. 1969. The Rate of Return on Investment in Education at the Regional Level: Estimates for the State of Hawaii. Economic Research Center, University of Hawaii.

Psacharopoulos, G. 1981. The World Bank in the World of Education: Some Policy Changes and Some Remnants. Comparative Education 17(2): 141-146

George’s latest paper on the returns to education:

Psacharopoulos, G., Patrinos, H.A. 2018. Returns to Investment in Education: A Decennial Review of the Global Literature. Education Economics 26(5): 445-458

Others mentioned include:

Becker, G. 1964. Human Capital. NBER.

Becker, G. 1960. Underinvestment in College Education? American Economic Review 50(2): 346-354.

Becker, G., Chiswick, B. 1966. Education and the Distribution of Earnings. American Economic Review 56(1/2): 358-369.

Blaug, M. 1967. A Cost-Benefit Approach to Educational Planning in Developing Countries. No. 157. International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Carnoy, M. 1967. Earnings and Schooling in Mexico. Economic Development and Cultural Change 15(4): 408-419.

Hanoch, G. 1967. An Economic Analysis of Earnings and Schooling. Journal of Human Resources 2(3): 310–29.

Kuznets, S., Friedman, M. 1939. Income from Independent Professional Practice. NBER.

Mincer, J. 1962. On-the-job Training: Costs, R, and Some Implications. Journal of Political Economy 70(5, Part 2): 50-79.

Mincer, J. 1958. Investment in Human Capital and Personal Income Distribution. Journal of Political Economy 66(4): 281-302.

Schultz. T.W. 1980. Nobel Lecture: The Economics of Being Poor Schultz. Journal of Political Economy 88(4): 639-651.

Schultz. T.W. 1975. The Value of the Ability to Deal with Disequilibria. Journal of Economic Literature 13(3): 827-846.

Schultz. T.W. 1961. Investment in Human Capital Schultz. American Economic Review 51(1): 1-17.

Schultz. T.W. 1960. Capital Formation by Education. Journal of Political Economy 68(6): 571-583.

Selowsky, M. 1969. On the Measurement of Education’s Contribution to Growth. Quarterly Journal of Economics 83(3): 449-463.

Strumilin, S.G. 1925. The Economic Significance of National Education. In: Robinson, E.A.G., Vaizey, J.E. (eds) The Economics of Education. Palgrave Macmillan.

Tinbergen, J. 1975. Income Distribution: Analysis and Policies.

Walsh, J.R. 1935. Capital Concept Applied to Man. Quarterly Journal of Economics 49(2): 255-285.

Other speakers made reference to other classic articles, including:

Selowsky, M. 1981. Nutrition, Health and Education: The Economic Significance of Complementarities at Early AgeJournal of Development Economics 9(3),: 331-346.

Psacharopoulos, G. 1996. Economics of Education: A Research AgendaEconomics of Education Review 15(4): 339-344.

Other key references from speakers at the conference:

Chiswick, C.U. 1983. Analysis of Earnings from Household Enterprises: Methodology and Application to Thailand. Review of Economics and Statistics LXV: 658-662.

Chiswick, C.U. 2006. An Economic Perspective on Religious Education:  Complements and Substitutes in a Human Capital Portfolio. Research in Labor Economics 24: 429-467.

Chiswick, C.U. 2009. The Economic Determinants of Ethnic Assimilation. Journal of Population Economics 22: 859-880.

Chiswick, C.U., Lehrer, E. 1990. On Marriage-Specific Human Capital: Its Role as a Determinant of Remarriage. Journal of Population Economics 3: 193-213.

Jimenez, E., Patrinos, H.A. 2009. Can cost-benefit analysis guide education policy in developing countries. Handbook of Research on Cost-Benefit Analysis. Edward Elgar.

McMahon, W.W. 2018. The total return to higher education: Is there underinvestment for economic growth and development? Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance 70: 90-111.

Psacharopoulos, G., Velez, E. 1993. Education Quality and Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from Bogota, Colombia. Sociology of Education 66(2): 130-145.

Psacharopoulos, G., Velez, E. 1992. Schooling, Ability and Earnings in Colombia, 1988. Economic Development and Cultural Change 40(3): 629-643.

Psacharopoulos, G., Rojas, C., Velez, E. 1993. Achievement Evaluation of Colombia’s Escuela Nueva. Comparative Education Review 37(3): 263-276.

Psacharopoulos, G., Vélez, E., Zabalza, A. 1986. Una evaluación de la Educación Media Diversificada en Colombia. Rojas-Eberhard Editores. Publicado para el Banco Mundial

Ritzen, J.M. 1975. Optimal investments for universal primary education. Journal of Optimization Theory and Applications 15(3): 327-339.

Ritzen, J.M, Winkler, D.R. 1977. The Production of Human Capital over Time. Review of Economics and Statistics 59(4): 427-437.

Ritzen, J.M.M. 1977. Education, Economic Growth and Income Distribution. North Holland Publishing Company.


Collapse and Recovery examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the accumulation of human capital among young people (ages 0 – 25). The report documents the alarming declines in cognitive and social-emotional development among young children, large learning losses among school-age children, and the significant drops in employment and skills among youth. It also highlights the increase in the number of youth not employed, enrolled in education, or training, with the impacts consistently worse for children from poorer backgrounds. The report offers concrete policy recommendations to recover these losses and emphasizes the need for an integrated human development system to better prepare for future shocks.

Guide to Public-Private Partnerships in Basic Education | Gustavo Arcia, Amy Holloway, Amy Mulcahy-Dunn | USAID | Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) are used by governments and educational institutions for expanding education delivery, improving operational efficiency, increasing accountability, and addressing issues of quality and learning equity at all levels of education. By improving the performance of the education systems, PPPs are expected to benefit both public and private partners and to strengthen educational equity. This paper provides a review of the evidence on what works in public-private partnerships in basic education—including pre-primary, primary, and secondary education—as well as technical and vocational education and training (TVET) with the intent of increasing awareness among USAID officers, education stakeholders, and private sector leaders about the potential of PPPs to address problems in education, delivery, financing, quality, and equity. Its intent is to provide an evidence-based perspective on the role PPPs can play in different levels of education, the varied forms PPPs can take, and the possible impacts. Findings and recommendations are based on lessons learned from partnerships in a variety of contexts.

Can grade retention help with COVID-19 learning recovery in schools? | Umut Özek, Louis T. Mariano | Requiring low-performing students to repeat a grade has been a longstanding and highly debated intervention in the United States. Calls to end social promotion in schools in the 1990s, along with the increasing popularity of educational accountability and standardized testing, led to test-based retention policies in many states and school districts. As of 2020, for example, about half of all states and the District of Columbia require or encourage school districts to retain third-grade students who lag behind based on their third-grade reading scores… In the wake of the pandemic, early-grade retention is getting more attention as a potential way to make up for missed learning. But school and district leaders should absorb the complete lessons of the past two decades: Retaining kids without providing the necessary supports or failing to identify the right kids using objective criteria will likely yield ineffective results and could even lead to adverse effects.

A year of missed opportunity: Post-Covid learning loss – A renewed call to action | Asadullah, Bouhlila, Chan, Draxler,  Ha,  Heyneman, Luschei, Semela, Yemini | The world is on the verge of a new human crisis. Following the covid-19 shutdown of schooling systems across the globe, there are shared concerns over rising schooling inequality and learning poverty. Although many are worried about millions of children not returning to classrooms when schools reopen, an even more serious concern relates to the loss of learning among those who continue in education (Donnelly and Patrinos, 2021). In the Global North, research has confirmed unequal family responses to cope with learning discontinuity. In the Global South, the learning challenges have proved multi-dimensional and much harder to tackle, given the triple burden of schooling deprivation, learning inequality and learning poverty…

What new research tells us about elementary and middle school start times | Kevin C. Bastian, Sarah Crittenden Fuller | Every morning, K-12 students across the country wake up and prepare for another day of school. While students’ morning routines may look similar everywhere—eating breakfast, getting dressed, scrambling to finish homework assignments—the time school starts varies across schools. This simple start time decision can have meaningful effects on students’ sleep, health, engagement with school, and learning.

Unproductive School Choice Debates: All Sides Assert Much That Is Wrong, Misleading, or Irrelevant | by John Merrifield, Nathan Gray, Terry Moe (foreword) | The book explains why we desperately need an “Open Education Industry.” It clearly defines the term, and the confusion about what can/should be done to improve schooling outcomes, and why over 30 years of efforts to improve schooling outcomes has left all 51 US school systems far short of what is needed to engage all schoolchildren in high value instruction. Because of past education failures, especially poor basic literacy in economic systems, many influential academics and activists have asserted the presence of adequate market forces where key elements of high-performing markets are absent, and have become pre-occupied with discussion of, and development of, devastating inappropriate generalizations about findings from studies of narrowly-targeted, restriction-laden expansions of access to alternatives to traditional public schools. The book compares those to transformational school choice expansions and describes key steps towards the inertia that threatens the future or America as a prosperous and free republic.

Education During the War: One Year of Russia’s Aggression Against Ukrainian Schools

On March 23, American Councils hosted “Education During the War: One Year of Russia’s Aggression Against Ukrainian Schools,” a presentation by savED, a Ukrainian international charitable foundation. savED was founded to restore and improve Ukrainian educational infrastructure destroyed by Russia’s unprovoked and brutal war. savED founders, Anna Novosad (the former Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine) and Ksana Nechyporenko were joined by Olenka Severenchuk, Head of the savED Charity Fund, for the event where they shared their research on the impacts of the war on Ukrainian children’s education. The presenters were welcomed by Executive Vice President of American Councils Lisa Choate, who reiterated American Councils’ commitment to supporting education in Ukraine during and after the war through initiatives like the Emergency Support for Ukraine Initiative and the Ukrainian Visiting Scholars Program (VSP) that supports academics from universities impacted by the war. Oksana Markarova, Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States, spoke on the importance of supporting the reconstruction of Ukraine, emphasizing that preserving education in Ukraine is an essential tool of resistance against Russian aggressors. savED concluded their presentation by introducing the new Minister of Education and Science for Ukraine, Mr. Oksen Lisovyi, who was appointed on March 21 and gave his first public remarks to international partners in his new position. Ms. Novosad then invited a panel of distinguished diplomats, researchers, and education advocates for a discussion on designing recovery in education and beyond, discussing the urgent needs and long-term challenges in rebuilding the Ukrainian education system. The panel featured Ted Dintersmith (founder of, Charles North (Deputy CEO of Global Partnerships for Education), Dr. Harry Anthony Patrinos (Adviser of Office of the Chief Economist for Europe and Central Asia for the World Bank), Vladyslav Rashkovan (Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund), and Ambassador William B. Taylor (Vice President, Europe and Russia and the United States Institute of Peace and former United States Ambassador to Ukraine). The panel discussed the importance of strategic partnerships with Ukraine and the future of Ukrainian education.

Symposium: Covid Impacts On Learning In Global Perspective | Workshop with Harry Patrinos and Per Engzell | University of Pennsylvania | 7 April 2023 | Noon EDT

Submit a Manuscript to the Journal Education Economics for a Special Issue on the 50th Anniversary of the Returns to Education: An International Comparison

Manuscript deadline: 31 October 2023

Special Issue Editor: Harry Patrinos, World Bank

Submit an article

50th Anniversary of the Returns to Education: An International Comparison

  • This year is the 50th anniversary of the publication of the book, Returns to Education: An International Comparison, by George Psacharopoulos (assisted by Keith Hinchliffe).
  • Education Economics is publishing a special issue to mark this occasion and the contributions of Professor Psacharopoulos.
  • The focus of this special issue is research on the returns to education.
  • Research on international comparisons and /or  returns to education in less developed economies are especially welcome.