In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Economics of Education

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Working Papers
  • Datasets
  • Journals
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Human Capital and the Returns to Education
  • School Choice
  • Educational Inputs
  • Health and Education
  • Peer Effects
  • Teacher Labor Markets
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Higher Education
  • Educational Finance
  • Education and Economic Development
  • Achievement Gaps

Education Economics of Education
Kevin A. Gee
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 December 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 December 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0055


The economics of education is a rapidly growing and evolving field that applies a diverse array of economic theories, models, and quantitative methodologies to understand, analyze, and improve the performance of education systems. Economic theories, such as the theory of human capital, economic models, such as the input–output based model of educational production, and rigorous experimental and quasi-experimental designs that seek to establish causal relationships have been developed and used by economists to shed light on a host of substantive issues that span education sectors, from formal to informal, and education levels, from early childhood education to higher education. Some of the most prominent issues in education that economists currently research include school choice (charter schools and voucher systems), teacher accountability, and closing growing achievement gaps. Because the field is rapidly evolving and the topics that are at the forefront of scholarly research in the economics of education are often responsive to current policy debates in education, these entries reflect the most salient and up-to-date references with an emphasis on topics most relevant to educational issues, both domestic and global, in the first decade of the 21st century.

General Overviews

Readers who are interested in understanding the breadth and depth of topics and research in the field should refer to several comprehensive resources on the economics of education. Brewer and McEwan 2010 and the two-volume Hanushek and Welch 2006 provide the reader with research on the most important topics in the economics of education, including the link between schooling and wages, issues of teacher supply and quality, as well as financing higher education. Johnes and Johnes 2004 provides a compendium of research articles that examines issues from an international perspective. Carnoy 1995 also provides coverage on topics in the economics of education organized into eight thematic units, including the benefits of education and educational finance. Finally, readers who would like to understand three core theories underlying the economics of education from a nontechnical perspective should refer to Brewer, et al. 2010.

  • Brewer, Dominic J., Guilbert C. Hentschke, and Eric R. Eide. 2010. Theoretical concepts in the economics of education. In International Encyclopedia of Education. Edited by Penelope L. Peterson, Eva L. Baker, and Barry McGraw, 193–198. Oxford: Elsevier.

    Particularly suited to readers without a background in economics, provides a nontechnical explanation of three core concepts underlying the field of the economics of education: human capital, market failures, and educational production.

  • Brewer, Dominic J., and Patrick J. McEwan, eds. 2010. Economics of education. Oxford: Academic.

    The most recent, up-to-date collection of research articles spanning the field of the economics of education. Provides comprehensive coverage in topic areas such as teacher labor markets and incentives in education. Focuses primarily on K–12 education and includes research drawn from international settings.

  • Carnoy, Martin, ed. 1995. International encyclopedia of economics of education. Resources in Education. Oxford: Pergamon.

    A comprehensive collection of articles organized by eight thematic units on topics in the economics of education.

  • Hanushek, Eric A., and Finis Welch, eds. 2006. Handbook of the economics of education. 2 vols. Handbooks in Economics 26. Amsterdam: North-Holland.

    A two-volume compilation of research in the economics of education from leading scholars in the field. Provides comprehensive coverage of key topic areas in the economics of education and includes extensive reference lists at the end of each article.

  • Johnes, Geraint, and Jill Johnes, eds. 2004. International handbook on the economics of education. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

    This handbook provides an overview of core topics that economists research in education and includes selections on the returns to education and teacher labor markets. Examples and evidence are grounded in international contexts. This handbook also includes a topic not often included in research in the field—the economics of secondary education.

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