Economic History 518
March 19, 2011
No one can argue that the United States economy has been a volatile force throughout history. The U.S has suffered from a roller coaster of economic droughts and economic booms. Although there have been many speculations made about what may have lead the way for the U.S economy to grow, education tends to stand out among the rest. From the early 1900’s to the late 1940’s, education has been one of the leading factors in the growth and development of the nation’s economy. In the early 19th century after the impact the railroads made on the economy the United States economy continued to experience rapid growth. As Americans made the shift from agricultural to industrial, they also made the shift from “one room” schooling to grammar school. From 1929 to 1982 national income per worker grew annually at 1.48 percent average. This annual growth can be explained by the increases in years and quality of formal education per American worker.
In the Articles “Education and Income” and “America Graduation from High School” by Claudia Goldin, she demonstrates some of the explanations on how and why education played an important role in the United States economy. Goldin explains how the 1915 Iowa State census can help measure growth when compared to the 1940 federal census. Official information to measure education in the U.S. wasn’t provided until 1940; fortunately Goldin explores other methods in order to obtain substantial information. For example the Iowa State census of 1915 shows the returns of a year of high school and a year of college were high. These increases show that education is critical to improving the economy. The U.S commissioner of education has collected state-level data on pupils enrolling in and graduating from public and private secondary school since 1909. The Bureau did not supply school surveys until 1920, before 1920 the U.S bureau of Education depended on state-level surveys, which lacked information. The data Goldin uses is the same data the U.S Bureau of Census use but with the combination of the Iowa census and in greater detail.
In the beginning of the 20th century the U.S began to expand its education. America was becoming industrialized and needed workers with beyond basic skills like; the ability to read and understand manuals, knowledge of algebra to solve simple formulas, creating blueprints. Goldin stresses the importance of human capital, which means the stock of competences, knowledge and personality attributes embodied in the ability to perform labor and to produce economic value. The nation needed improvement in education.
Secondary school enrollment and graduation rates increased in much of the United States from 1910 to 1940, most of the advance occurred from 1920 to 1935. Secondary schooling was an important contributor to the increase in educational stock. Secondary schooling is responsible for about 70 percent of the increase of educational attainment from 1930 to 1970. This percentage is found by dividing the increase years of schooling from men of the age 40-44 in two different time periods. In this case, men age 40-44 born between 1886 and 1890 increase their years for schooling by 2.7 years and men ages 40-44 born 1926 and 1930 increase their years by 3.9 years. If you divide 2.7 by 3.9 you get 70 percent. This makes secondary schooling a very important reason for per capita income growth in much of the 20th century. “In 1910 preparatory students in U.S. colleges and universities were 31 percent of all private high school students and in 1920 they were 22 percent”. Before 1910 private schools were a significant fraction of all secondary students, which was 18.2 percent. In 1920 it felled to 12.8 percent and then ten percent in 1930.
The growth of the secondary schooling from 1910 to 1940 was known as the period of the “High school movement”. “The United States