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date: 16 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter reviews the empirical literature on the expansion of educational institutions and the human capital stock of the United States over the past two and a half centuries. Using evidence on literacy, numeracy, and years of education, it details the remarkable growth of the American human capital stock and discusses trends in racial and gender gaps in educational attainment. The chapter then outlines the development of the educational institutions that facilitated the growth of the human capital stock, discussing the political and social forces shaping the expansion of schools. This overview includes an emphasis on the consequences of the uniquely public and decentralized nature of American schools. Finally, the chapter examines the literature on the decision to attend those schools, considering the roles of the private returns to education, health, family characteristics, and compulsory schooling laws.

Keywords: education, human capital, school, literacy, public education

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