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Education Opinion

Narrowing the Achievement Gap Would Add $10 Trillion to GDP by 2050

By Matthew Lynch — February 06, 2015 1 min read

One study after another has shown a wide educational achievement gap between the poorest and wealthiest children in the United States. This prompted researchers at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a group focused on narrowing inequality, to study and conclude that if America could improve education performance for the average student, everyone would benefit.

The U.S. ranks behind more than 33 advanced industrialized countries that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development when it comes to math and science scores. The study used scores from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment, a test used around the world to measure and compare achievement.

America ranks behind countries such as Korea, Poland and Slovenia in the 24th spot.

Elimination of the achievement gap in the U.S. will boost the economy -- but this requires raising the country’s average score to 1,080. The average combined score for the U.S. is 978, and the O.E.C.D average is 995.

If the U.S. could move up a few notches to number 19 - so the average American score would match the O.E.C.D. average - it would add 1.7 percent to the nation’s gross domestic product over the next 35 years, according to estimates by the Washington Center. This could lead to approximately $900 billion in higher government revenue.

If the U.S. scores matched Canada, number 7 of the O.E.C.D. scale, America’s gross domestic product would increase by 6.7 percent. After taking inflation into account, this is a cumulative increase of $10 trillion by 2050.

The achievement gap in America is a pressing issue, and it is certainly something we have to hone in on to eliminate. I hope to see our country’s O.E.C.D. ranking improve in the near future so we can narrow, and eventually close, the achievement gap and benefit from the boost in the economy too.

The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.