Economists: Education should be nation’s top priority

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, took it upon himself to do what no one else seemed willing to do: poll economists and ask them their views on the economy and the candidates. He hired a polling firm “at considerable personal expense” and has shared the results.

He summarizes the results in a CNN op-ed (the complete report here). An extract:

we asked the economists which candidate they thought would do the best job on the most important issues. For me, the surprise is how many economists say there would be no difference.

The economists in our survey favor Obama on 11 of the top 13 issues. But keep in mind that 48 percent are Democrats and only 17 percent are Republicans.

Among independents, things are less clear, with 54 percent thinking that in the long run there would either be no difference between the candidates or McCain would do better.

The top priority amongst economists? Education.

The Harvard economist Ed Glaeser makes the case for more public spending on education:

The case for governmental investment in education reflects the fact all of us become more productive when our neighbors know more. The success of cities like Boston reflects the magic that occurs when knowledgeable people work and live around each other. As the share of adults in a metropolitan area with college degrees increases by 10 percent, the wages of a worker with a fixed education level increases by 8 percent. Area level education also seems to increase the production of innovations and speed economic growth.

American education is not just another arrow in a quiver of policy proposals, but it is the primary weapon, the great claymore, to fight a host of public ills. One can make a plausible case that improving American education would do as much to improve health outcomes as either candidate’s health plans. People with more years of schooling are less obese, smoke less, and live longer. Better-educated people are also more likely to vote and to build social capital by investing in civic organizations.

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