College Graduates Spur Global Economic Growth: Chart of the Day

This year’s college graduates are likely to make the global economy more productive because of their education, judging by the results of a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows the average years of schooling worldwide for people at least 15 years old, according to data that economists Robert J. Barro of Harvard University and Jong-Wha Lee of the Asian Development Bank compiled for their study. They tracked education levels in 146 countries since 1950.

During the past decade, the average rose by 0.78 year, in line with the 0.76-year average for the second half of the 20th century. People with college degrees increased to 6.7 percent of the population this year from 5.9 percent in 2000.

“Human capital, particularly attained through education, is crucial to economic progress,” Barro and Lee wrote today in a posting on the Centre for Economic Policy Research’s Vox Web site that summarized their findings.

Global economic output climbs by about 2 percent for each additional year spent in school, according to the study. Rates of return on undergraduate and graduate studies are as high as 18 percent for every year.

Developing countries were primarily responsible for the past decade’s increase in education levels, based on the study data. In 24 “advanced” economies, the average amount of time in the classroom rose just 0.38 year. College graduates dropped to 14.5 percent of the population from 15.4 percent a decade ago.

(To save a copy of the chart, click here.)