Document Type

Honors Paper

Publication Date

5-17-2006

Abstract

[Introduction]Over two thousand years ago, Aristotle said, “the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.” (Peter 1977: 173). This study will attempt to determine some of the important factors about the economics of high school education in the United States. Schools exist to serve children, their parents, and society at large, and these three groups do not always have identical interests. Therefore, education has many goals besides the obvious one of increased cognitive ability, and the best methods for achieving the desired effects have not been agreed upon. Economists label the process by which education creates these outcomes the education production function; this model attempts to predict the effects of a given change in resources on student outcomes. However, the educational process involves many inputs and outputs, and economists have not been able to specify all of them yet. Another area of contention in the economics of education is economies of scale. Economists have been arguing for years that economies of scale exist in the provision of high school education, but the fear that these large schools do not provide the same quality of education as their smaller counterparts has spurred a new debate. This paper will attempt to clarify various educational theories and elucidate research findings. Chapter One is about the economic and social effects of education, Chapter Two discusses economies of scale in high schools, and Chapter Three explains the education production function. The last chapter, Chapter Four, is a case study of one school district in central Massachusetts, the Wachusett Regional School District. By focusing on Wachusett, we will see that the findings of researchers are not the only factors voters consider when making decisions that will affect the youth of their area. Because of all the factors that vary from school to school, it is difficult to specify exactly what is important for providing education.

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The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.