Money Counts, But so Does Timing: Public Investment and Adult Competencies

38 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2017

See all articles by Jo Ritzen

Jo Ritzen

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Alison Cathles



Numeracy skills of adults within and across 12 different countries in 2011 are strongly associated with the accumulated public investments in education received by these adults during their schooling. This paper confirms existing evidence that the timing of educational investments is important, with early investments playing the most fundamental role. Investment in primary education is associated with higher numeracy scores for those who went on to continue their education. Higher investments in tertiary education are needed in order to fully realize the benefit of the investments in primary school. Family background is a decisive factor in relation to numeracy skills of these adults, in line with all available evidence. Adults who received higher public investment in primary education were more likely to complete secondary school and attain tertiary education. This refutes earlier studies indicating that the amount of financial resources available for education may not be that important for the development of competences.

Keywords: government expenditures and education, human capital, education and economic development, returns to education, cognitive skills

JEL Classification: H52, I25, I26, J01, J24

Suggested Citation

Ritzen, Jo and Cathles, Alison, Money Counts, But so Does Timing: Public Investment and Adult Competencies. IZA Discussion Paper No. 10565. Available at SSRN:

Jo Ritzen

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

Alison Cathles (Contact Author)

UNU-MERIT ( email )

Keizer Karelplein 19
Maastricht, 6211TC

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics