In Australia, successive conservative Federal governments have increased the share of public funding for non-government schools, and for the top schools the amounts of annual funding are many millions of dollars. The top schools have generally chosen to continue charging their fees and reinvest this and whatever other non-Govt income in facility upgrades (but most have also received small Govt grants to their capital works too). Lots of state schools (govt schools) are barely scraping by - my son's school doesn't have a librarian this year, so the library is not available through recess (its fine for him, our house is full of books, but lots of kids there won't have that). Things are no doubt worse in regional schools in states in economic doldrums.


[My question is not about the rights and wrongs of this in general, but the investment profile it reveals is the background to my question.]

I have a strongly felt intuition that the best investment I (or any other relatively rich person) could make is not just in my kid, but also in him having better educated contemporaries in the environment he'll go to work - so at least kids all over the city, probably the state, likely the country and possibly even international neighbours.

As a small example, within his class, my son is doing fine. But I think he's more likely to get a good job if all the other kids are equipped to take their shot at entrepreneurship or advanced studies or whatever their specific kind of excellence might be. My son might not be a great entrepreneur but others might; or he might be a great entrepreneur and need an enormous quantity of highly skilled workers. I think this applies right across the distribution of skill level - the economy has less and less use for unskilled labor, so the greater the proportion of kids mastering literacy, numeracy, history, the more productively the economy can employ them.

My question has two parts:

  • is there any evidence my intuition is correct?
  • if I were very rich, should I send my kid to the best school I can afford, or go some way down the list and spend a matching amount charitably at high-need schools?

The factors that people believe are important when their kid might get into an elite school:

  • networking & prestige: factors relating to social class. This one probably has real effects - Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister is a perfect example. Is that a rational preference?

  • non-stunting / pro-flourishing environment: What's our model of human potential and growth like? When do diminishing returns kick in for different people?


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