Understanding the 20th Century Growth in U.S. School Spending

Eric A. Hanushek
Steven G. Rivkin
Published Date
Winter 1997
Journal of Human Resources
pp. 34-68
Persistent increases in spending on elementary and secondary schools have gone virtually undocumented. Real expenditure per student increased 3-1/2 percent per year over the period 1890-1990. Decomposition of the spending growth shows that it resulted from a combination of failing pupil-staff ratios, increasing real wages to teachers, and rising expenditure outside of the classroom. Although the expansion of education for the handicapped has had a disproportionate effect on spending, most of the growth in expenditure during the 1980's came from other sources. Significant teacher salary increases, particularly for females, have failed to keep up with wages in other occupations.