A country’s wealth (defined as GDP per capita) is
positively associated with expenditures per student
on education at the combined elementary/secondary
level and at the postsecondary level. For example, the
education expenditures per student (both elementary/
secondary and postsecondary) for each of the 10 OECD
countries with the highest GDP per capita in 2007 were
higher than the OECD average expenditures per student.
The expenditures per student for the 10 OECD countries
with the lowest GDP per capita were below the OECD
average at both the elementary/secondary level and at the
Per pupil spending in the U.S. is inflated in these comparisons because it includes per pupil expenditures for college. One might make a case that this spending could be reduced and efficiency maintained were investment in elementary and secondary education increased and made more effective.
Chiefly, here we should note that spending more on education correlates with a nation’s wealth — the more a nation spend, the wealthier it is, and vice versa. This applies in the developed nations measured by the Organization for Economic Development, anyway.
In short: We cut education spending at our national peril.
More data on this measure here. Other indicators, and the complete text of the Condition of Education 2011, here.
Conflict of interest statement: My office published these reports in my time at the Office of Educational Research and Improvement; I have no affiliation with these data any more.