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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - US Chamber Education and Workforce Summit, September
Title Education and economic competitiveness
Volume 24
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2007
URL http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/speech/bernanke20070924a.htm
When I travel around the country, meeting with students, business people, and others interested in the economy, I am occasionally asked for investment advice. Usually (though not always) the question is posed in jest. No one really expects me to tell them which three stocks they should buy. However, I know the answer to the question and I will share it with you today: Education is the best investment.

Here at the U.S. Chamber Education and Workforce Summit, I don’t really need to convince you that, as an investment, education provides excellent returns, both for individuals and for society. As executives accustomed to making hard cost-benefit decisions, you doubtless assign a high priority to the quality of your business’s workforce because you know that a key--perhaps the key--to your success is the capabilities of the people you employ. To a significant extent, those capabilities are the product of education. Here I am speaking not just of education acquired formally in classrooms before entering the workforce but also of lifelong learning that, yes, includes the formal classroom training that might first come to mind but that also includes early childhood programs, informal mentoring on the job, and mid-career retraining, to name a few examples. And when I speak of capabilities, I mean not only the knowledge derived from education but also the values, skills, and personal traits acquired through education, which are as important as, and sometimes even more important than, the specific knowledge obtained. These include such qualities as the ability to think critically, to communicate clearly and logically, and to see a project through from start to finish.

Today, I would like to offer a broad overview of education and its importance to our economy from my perspective not only as an economist but also as a one-time school board member, the spouse of a teacher, and the parent of two young adults pursuing higher education. Although the United States has long been a world leader in expanding educational opportunities, we have also long grappled with challenges, such as troubling high-school dropout rates, particularly for minority and immigrant youths, and frustratingly slow and uneven progress in raising test scores and other measures of educational achievement. If we are to make progress in meeting these challenges, we must be willing to actively debate their causes and continually experiment and innovate to find solutions.

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