NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Educational Spending In Industrialized Countries

December 10, 1996

A study of spending patterns in the 27 countries that make up the Organization for Economic cooperation and Development (OECD) reveals that they are spending about the same share of their national income on education that they did in 1975 -- but the amounts are spread over substantially greater numbers of students.

  • The 27 industrialized countries are spending on average 6 percent of their national income on education -- $1 trillion a year.
  • The U.S. spends 7 percent, while expenditures in Canada, Denmark, Finland and Norway range from 7.2 percent to 7.6 percent.
  • Many of the governments are trying to trim education spending, even in the face of "enormous" growth in participation.

While the U.S. leads the world in educating more students at both the high school and college levels, many other OECD countries are catching up.

  • College and university participation rates have doubled in Canada, New Zealand, Ireland and Portugal since 1985.
  • Graduation rates among OECD countries average about 16 percent.
  • The U.S. graduation rate is 32 percent -- with Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom trailing only slightly.

Source: Tamara Henry, "Countries Tend to Spend Less on More Students," USA Today, December 10, 1996.


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