Gauging Competitiveness

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Science  02 Nov 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6107, pp. 583
DOI: 10.1126/science.338.6107.583-c

Supported by data showing that U.S. students perform substantially below their international peers, politicians justify their education policies by linking them to the need to be competitive in a global economy. How does this type of policy motivation influence voters' attitudes toward supporting public schooling? Using a survey designed to randomize exposure to international competitiveness across respondents, Morgan and Poppe tested 1000 U.S. adults for differential responses to the perceived quality of local public schools and the preferred expenditures for the nation's education system. A randomly selected treatment group was asked two questions on international competitiveness before taking the survey. This group reported lower assessments of their local schooling, coupled with decreased support for increasing the national budget for education, suggesting that although the public may be concerned about the quality of their schools, these concerns do not translate into support for additional education spending. Framing education policy as essential to the United States being competitive in the global economy may thus be counter-productive if politicians are also looking to increase education spending.

Educ. Researcher 41, 262 (2012).

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