It is also the case that, over the 20th century, the expansion of the U.S. education system outpaced the rest of the world. The U.S. pushed to open secondary schools to all citizens. Higher education expanded with the development of land grant universities, the GI Bill, and direct grants and loans to students. The extraordinary U.S. higher-education system is a powerful engine of technological progress and economic growth in the U.S. not accounted for in our analysis. By most evaluations, U.S. colleges and universities rank at the very top in the world.
Part of the answer is that the United States may be resting on its historic record as the world’s leader in educational attainment. In addition, the United States has other advantages, some of which are entirely separate and apart from the quality of its schooling. The U.S. maintains generally freer labor and product markets than most countries in the world. There is less government regulation of firms, and trade unions are less powerful than in many other countries. Put more broadly, the U.S. has generally less intrusion of government in the operation of the economy, including lower tax rates and minimal government production through nationalized industries. Taken together, these characteristics of the U.S. economy encourage investment, permit the rapid development of new products and activities by firms, and allow U.S. workers to adjust to new opportunities.
Essay: Girls' Education in Developing Countries: Mind …
None of this is meant to suggest that schooling is the only factor contributing to a society’s cognitive skill development. Family, individual ability, and health combine with school quality to determine a student’s level of achievement. Yet there is every reason to believe that the single best route to higher levels of cognitive skill is strengthening a country’s education system. After all, most people think that is the system’s primary purpose.