NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Ability and Effort, Not Schools, Determine Success

April 7, 2000

Achievers with abilities and good minds are prone to greater success than their less mentally endowed peers -- regardless of which schools they attend -- according to research papers published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Among the findings in the NBER working papers:

  • Children who do poorly in bad schools tend also to do poorly in schools with abundant resources -- so greater spending has done nothing to reduce income variation among workers.
  • School dropouts with significant cognitive skills earn quite large returns in their careers compared to those of lesser intelligence -- whether they be male, female, white or nonwhite .
  • Even modest differences in students' SAT scores are associated with measurably higher lifetime incomes -- regardless of whether they attended an elite Ivy League school or a less prestigious institution.

Source: Dan Seligman, "The Big Lie," Forbes, April 17, 2000; NBER Working Papers 7101, 7322 and 7450, National Bureau of Economic Research.


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