Returns to investment in education based on human capital theory have been estimated systematically since the 1950s.
The concept of the rate of return on investment in education is very similar to that for any other investment. It is a summary of the costs and benefits of the investment incurred at different points in time, and it is expressed in an annual (percentage) yield, like that quoted for savings accounts or government bonds. Returns on investment in education based on human capital theory have been estimated since the late 1950s. Human capital theory puts forward the concept that investments in education increase future productivity.
In the 60-plus year history of such estimates, there have been several compilations in the literature. This paper reviews and highlights the latest trends and patterns based on a database of 1,120 estimates in 139 countries. The review shows that the private average global rate of return to one extra year of schooling is about 9 percent a year and very stable over decades. Private returns to higher education have increased over time, raising issues of financing and equity. Social returns to schooling remain high, above 10 percent at the secondary and higher education levels. Women continue to experience higher average rates of return to schooling, showing that girls’ education remains a priority. Returns are higher in low-income countries. Those employed in the private sector of the economy enjoy higher returns than those in the public sector, lending support to the productive value of education.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Returns to investment in education : a decennial review of the global literature (English) | The World Bank