Educational Catchup Downunder

A wonderfully ambitious paper just published in the new Journal of Human Capital combines school enrollment data and demographic tables to estimate educational attainment rates for 74 countries over the period 1870-2010. Here’s the abstract.

The Century of Education (published version, working paper version)
Christian Morrisson & Fabrice Murtin
This paper presents a historical database on educational attainment in 74 countries for the period 1870–2010, using perpetual inventory methods before 1960 and then the Cohen and Soto database. We use a measurement error framework to merge the two databases, while correcting for a systematic measurement bias in Cohen and Soto’s study linked to differential mortality across educational groups. Descriptive statistics show a continuous spread of education that has accelerated in the second half of the twentieth century. We find evidence of fast convergence in years of schooling for a subsample of advanced countries during the 1870–1914 globalization period and of modest convergence since 1980. Less advanced countries have been excluded from the convergence club in both cases.

Being a tad parochial, I naturally turned to see how Australia compares. Here’s our average years of schooling, plotted against the average for the UK and US, over 140 years.


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3 Responses to Educational Catchup Downunder

  1. conrad says:

    I realize the data doesn’t exist for most of the series, but it would have been nice to have outcome measures too. Given that the Flynn effect stopped in about 1990, I wonder whether the last 20 years equates to more education but about the same amount of learning.

  2. ChrisPer says:

    It would also be interesting to tease out the contribution to the average of migrants with years completed overseas, and how their profile compares to the Australian profile and the birth country profile.

  3. AdrianMcPh says:


    As you blog so much, and so well, on education, I’m interested in where you went to high school? Was it a government comprehensive, selective, catholic, GPS?

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