There is quite a bit of literature on the economics of education. One of the most debated aspects of it arises when estimating the achievement of the student (usually in the form of standardized test scores). Which are the most relevant inputs? Which are not?

A few usual suspects are:

  • Parent's education
  • Teacher "quality", which is by itself an issue. Sometimes it is represented by years of experience, majors acquired, certification, test scores, etc.
  • School inputs
  • Peer effects
  • Teacher absenteeism
  • The list goes on...

2 Answers 2


There is no solid consensus on the inputs that go into educational achievement or attainment. The list of variables is vast and varied.

One of the most common applications of this is attempting to calculate the returns to education - i.e. the average increase in income that results from one additional year of schooling.

I myself have performed research on this topic in grad school, and a good reference is:

In my research there were many variables that were statistically significant:

  • age
  • gender
  • race
  • marital status
  • union membership
  • year at time of measurement
  • number of siblings
  • religious beliefs
  • opinion on sex ed in schools
  • opinion on national educational spending
  • opinion on education as catalyst for racial/class divides

Most researchers in this area agree that parental involvement is one of the main determining factors for a child's educational outcome. The difficulty is in quantifying this and other subjective data such as teacher quality and peer effects. This is one of the main issues in the field now - figuring out how to statistically measure non-numerical variables. The opinion variables I mentioned above are from national social surveys and are an attempt to quantify these subjective things. Specifically, my data came from the General Social Survey (GSS) available here: http://www3.norc.org/GSS+Website/


I don't think there is at all a consensus. This is a huge, active field of research in economics. Though, if you'd like to get a feel for the work that's going on, here are two papers by Raj Chetty, John N. Friedman, and Jonah Rockoff (one paper in two parts) that have gotten a lot of attention:

You might also want to check out the work being done by James Heckman:


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