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Efficiency of public social spending on education: The case of Argentina.

Luca Mauricio Salvatierra is a guest writer for the Warwick Economics Summit Blog. He is finishing a Bachelor of Economics at the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba - Argentina


Educational policy has been approached over time by various social sciences. In the case of economics and in particular the field of public economics, it is one of the concepts that has led to various discussions, especially regarding production, provision and financing.


Following the theory of human capital, the per capita income of society will increase given the direct relationship between economic growth and the stock of human capital, and it is an instrument to improve distribution and reduce poverty. In this sense, the role of the state and the decisions that each government makes about educational policies turn out to be relevant for the development of a country.


Also central in this field is the analysis of its nature as a public good. The first important contribution on the distinction of public and private goods can be recognized in Musgrave (1939) , although it is Samuelson (1954) who elaborates a more complete conceptualization of public goods in his work “The Pure Theory of Public Expenditure”. Economic theory then recognizes two distinctive properties for its classification: non-rivalry in consumption and the principle of non-exclusion. Under this analysis, education can be understood as an impure public good or a public good by nature, given the positive externalities that it produces which represents a social benefit.


Likewise, international organizations like the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have recognized the central role of education, for example, in the Incheon Declaration: Education 2030 (2015). It is also worth noting its recognition as a right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948, art. 26.1).


In the case of Argentina, and in particular of secondary education, we find a distinctly marked regional heterogeneity, where there is not even the same structure of the educational system at the national level. Each province gains the independence to establish its own curriculum, which favors the increase in pre-existing heterogeneity.


Starting in the 1990s, various changes have taken place that have transferred power and control over secondary education to each province, as well as its financing. Here the first point to be highlighted is that those provinces with better pre-existing socioeconomic conditions have been able to carry out better allocation practices of their resources and therefore have maintained better results, perpetuating and widening the differences between sub-national states.


On the other hand, there is evidence that even within the corresponding economic region there are divergences, as if we analyze structural, socioeconomic and economic factors. This can be noted in Salvatierra (2020) , where through an analysis with Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA), the efficiency indices of secondary education are estimated in each province over 10 years, the results of which are discriminated by regions are shown below (where DMU represents each province and theta is the estimated efficiency coefficient):




It is worth highlighting the divergence that exists according to the income levels of the families of origin of the students. According to SITEAL, the schooling gap associated with the socioeconomic level of the families of origin amounts to 12 percentage points to the detriment of adolescents who come from families with a lower socioeconomic level, while this is aggravated by observing graduation since said difference reaches 29 percentage points.


As Psacharopoulos and Woodhall (1985) point out, investment in education represents a fundamental factor in the development process of countries. However, they highlight the complexity of designing educational policies and investment strategies that maximize the country's effort to achieve economic growth. In order for the allocation of resources to be done efficiently, it is necessary to take into account the characteristics of each country and coordinate investment in education with other policies that promote equity.


In essence, the role of the state is fundamental to generate a scenario of genuine equality of opportunities that favors the equity and development of each citizen. Although improvements have been observed in recent years, in general terms, the educational gap has increased as a consequence of the various economic crises that our country has suffered.


To conclude, the correct design, implementation and control of public policies in education should be the priority of every government that seeks the growth and development of its nation. Despite this, it is not enough to implement educational policies if there is no coordination between the different levels of government, nor are they part of a comprehensive plan that promotes equitable access to an inclusive education system in every sense.


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