[Ilya Somin] Bryan Caplan's Case Against Education

In his important inew book The Case Against Education, economist Bryan Caplan argues that a high proportion of our massive spending on education is a waste of time and money. Since government spending on education amounts to some $1 trillion per year, this suggests we are gravely misallocating resources that could be bettered used elsewhere. I. Caplan's Theory of Wasteful Educational Signaling. Caplan doesn't deny the extensive evidence indicating that education increases income. High school graduates earn far more than dropouts, and college graduates far more than high school graduates, for example. Caplan contends that most of this income gain (perhaps as much as 80 percent) is not the result of improved skills (investments in human capital, in economic terminology), but rather "signaling." The big reason why employers prefer college graduates is not any skill those people acquired in college, but rather that getting a diploma is a signal of intelligence,…

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