No. 4/2016:Welfare state generosity and student performance: Evidence from international student tests 1980 - 2003


Student achievement has been identified as an important contributor to economic growth. This paper investigates the relationship between redistributive government activities and investment in human capital measured by student performance in international comparative tests in Mathematics and Science during the period 1980 to 2003. In fixed effects panel models, government consumption, government social expenditures, and the progressivity of the income tax system have negative effects on student achievement. These results are robust to a variety of model specifications, such as conditioning on educational expenditures, and alternative measures of student performance from the World Bank. Our estimates indicate that increased government size by 10 percent reduces student achievement by 0.1 standard deviations.