Goldin and Katz on Education, Technology, and Growth

For those of you who like a little more serious brand of economics, Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Larry Katz have an excellent new book entitled The Race Between Education and Technology.

Here is what I said about it on the book jacket:

A masterful work by two leading economists on some of the biggest issues in economics: economic growth, human capital, and inequality. There are fundamental insights in the book, not just about our past, but also our future. Rigorous, but not overly technical, this beautifully written book will appeal to educated lay people and economists alike.

It tells the story of how the United States got a head start on education relative to other countries, how that head start helped us to achieve economic dominance, and how we’ve now lost that educational advantage. It also details the fascinating interplay between technology and education — how the forces of supply and demand have swung back and forth on those dimensions, and how much of the major changes we have seen in the economy can be explained by just a few key factors.

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  1. dan p says:

    Am I just cynical or does ‘educated lay people’ seem like a contradiction?

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  2. michael says:

    Finally a book addressing this phenomena. I will certainly have a read.

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  3. Mark says:

    It is very possible for a person that is not in the clergy to be educated, where is the contradiction?

    The bigger question is why Educated Clergy who are not also economists would not enjoy the book.

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  4. A. Nonny Mouse says:

    In a country where more people believe that the sun revolves around the Earth (20%), not to mention astrology (25%), UFOs(34%), ghosts(40%), witches (28%), reincarnation (21%), angels(68%), miracles (73%) and such than accept the scientific theory of Evolution (without some god’s guidance) (14%), you might find some clue as to why American education is parting ways with the growth of knowledge of modern technology and science.

    [All percentages from Harris Poll except for Evolution, from CBS News Poll.]

    Hmmmmmm…

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  5. Mike says:

    The average American student understands that eschewing a degree in science, mathematics, or computer technology does not prevent one from earning a decent standard of living. In fact, earning a two year degree can provide one with a decent wage. The caveat is the willingness of the individual to discipline himself – work diligently and patiently.

    American education is not parting ways with modern technology and science, students are. Learning key concepts in science and math require more effort than most disciplines, especially when there is only one answer – two plus two will never be five, but one could argue all day long about the sociological effects of a dearth of computers in poorer homes.

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  6. Mike says:

    My hunch would be that our economic advantage was due to getting land and resources for free (aka stealing it), and now that we’ve run out of land and resources to steal, our advantage is slipping away.

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  7. dan p says:

    Mark (# 3) – Lay people refers to both those not in the clergy as well as to those who do not belong to a particular profession or who are not an expert in some field (which is clearly what Levitt meant).

    # 5 (Mike) – It is a stretch to make the suggestion that sociology is something that can ‘be argued about all day.’ Good sociology work is based upon empirical evidence, such as statistics proving those with home computers do better than those without. The debate is deciding how to address the problems, not what the problems are.

    Even philosophy, the most debatable of educational subjects, is grounded in logic, which is a key concept in math.

    Perhaps students deserve some of the blame, but so does the system for making them complacent.

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  8. dan p says:

    #6 – Sure, resources played a part, but we’re certainly not running out of them (except maybe fresh water) anytime soon. And it’s not as if every single other country out there didn’t cheat and steal its resources either.

    Our economic advantage was primarily based on our technological innovations such as the steam engine, assembly line, microchip, etc.

    However, it is cheaper for a country to acquire technology (or steal it, as many do) then to develop said technology itself. So they’ll lag behind in technology for a while before they catch up (think about the nuclear bomb, and how just about anyone who wants it can have it now).

    Now that many of these countries have caught up with us in education as well (if not surpassed us), they can innovate too.

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