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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Explorations in Economic History, Volume 49, Issue 3, July 2012, Pages 316–334
Formal schooling has a significant impact on modern agricultural productivity but there is little evidence quantifying the historical importance of schools in the early development of the American agricultural sector. I present new data from the Midwest at the start of the twentieth century showing that the emerging public schools were helping farmers successfully adapt to a variety of agricultural innovations. I use a unique dataset of farmers containing detailed geographical information to estimate both the private returns to schooling and human capital spillovers across neighboring farms. The results indicate that public schools contributed substantially to agricultural productivity at the turn of the century and that a large portion of this contribution came through human capital spillovers. These findings offer new insights into why the Midwest was a leader in the expansion of secondary education.
The emergence of the modern American public education system has been studied extensively. The work of Goldin and Katz (2008) and others has demonstrated the importance of gains in the educational attainment of the national workforce to the growth of the US economy. While there is little dispute about the significant returns to schooling in the first half of the twentieth century and the increasing importance of human capital in a wide range of industries, there is one aspect of the expansion of the educational system and human capital investments that has largely escaped attention, the role of education in the agricultural sector. Despite the Midwest serving as the locus of the high school movement, little attention has been paid to the historical links between education and agriculture. This paper assesses the importance of formal schooling in early-twentieth century agriculture by quantifying both the private returns to education for farmers and human capital spillovers across farms. The early 1900s was a period in which public education was expanding at a rapid pace and a period which, while preceding the dramatic biological advances in agriculture of the 1930s and 1940s, witnessed a wide range of important agricultural innovations. Public schools offered a channel to disseminate information on innovations from the growing agriculture programs at land-grant colleges, providing farmers with a new way to accumulate productive human capital. Investment in formal schooling had the potential to lead to significant private returns for farmers. Beyond the private returns to education, there was a very public aspect to education at the time. The ways in which a farmer's education translated into more productive practices were highly observable by neighbors. An educated farmer's successful practices could be copied by his neighbors, making the social returns to a farmer's schooling larger than simply his private returns. I use a newly constructed dataset containing income, education and a variety of detailed spatial data for a sample of Iowa farmers to estimate the income gains both from an increase in a farmer's own education and from increases in the educational attainments of his neighboring farmers. The detail of the data allows for estimates of human capital spillovers not just between neighbors but also within and across various social networks. The results demonstrate that there were large returns to formal schooling for farmers and that adjacent neighbors shared in those gains. These estimates of the private returns to education and human capital spillovers for farmers reveal that even prior to the major agricultural innovations of the mid-twentieth century, formal schooling played an important role in increasing farmers' earnings. The substantial private and public returns to education suggest that there were large social gains from the Midwest's aggressive introduction of public graded schools and high schools in the early twentieth century. These findings shed new light on the forces underlying early public school expansion in the United States and on the potential importance of public schooling in modern developing countries with large agricultural sectors.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
The history of agriculture in the American Midwest reveals that there was substantial innovation occurring in the decades before the technological advances of the mid-twentieth century. Human capital played an important role in helping farmers profitably adopt new technologies and the public schools of the time were well suited to producing that human capital. The data on Iowa farmers reveal that schools did indeed have a large impact on farmers' incomes. Secondary schooling in particular led to large increases in earnings. Human capital spillovers also existed; an additional year of schooling for a farmer substantially increased the earnings of individuals on neighboring farms. These substantial private returns to education and spillovers suggest that public education played a large role in agricultural productivity growth at the turn of the century. Rather than simply allowing educated individuals to escape the farm for white collar occupations in the city, public schools allowed those farmers who stayed in agriculture to increase their earnings and the earnings of other farmers in the community. These results suggest that a full accounting of the expansion of public schools and of economic growth at the turn of the century must consider the links between education and agriculture. Identifying human capital spillovers in agriculture at the turn of the century opens up a large set of interesting areas for future study. Knowing the size of the private and public returns to education in agriculture offers a crucial piece of information for modeling the expansion of public education in areas of the United States with sizable agricultural sectors and assessing whether there were major efficiency gains from having local control over school expansion in the United States rather than more centralized control. These lessons from the United States during a period of steady innovation can be extended to help us understand not only the historical evolution of the American economy but also the importance of educational institutions in agricultural regions of developing nations adapting to modern agricultural innovations.