George Schultz and Eric Hanushek write in the Wall Street Journal that the poor performance of US students in mathematics, as evidenced by the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), is undermining economic growth.

If we accept this level of performance, we will surely find ourselves on a low-growth path.

The chart on the right shows average GDP growth from 1960-2000 on the Y-axis and the PISA score on the X-axis, along with a lovely line fit that appears to show a nice, tight correlation between math and GDP growth.  Indeed, by pulling out Canada and the US the authors conclude:

Imagine a school improvement program that made us competitive with Canada in math performance (which means scoring approximately 40 points higher on PISA tests) over the next 20 years. As these Canadian-skill-level students entered the labor force, they would produce a faster-growing economy.

How much faster? The results are stunning. The improvement in GDP over the next 80 years would exceed a present value of $70 trillion. That’s equivalent to an average 20% boost in income for every U.S. worker each year over his or her entire career. This would generate enough revenue to solve easily the U.S. debt problem that is the object of so much current debate.

What’s remarkable about this conclusion, aside from the dubious causality of average test scores and the heroic extrapolations, is that the figure shows that the USA actually has higher GDP growth than Canada.  So, if GDP growth is the end goal, I wonder what Canada is doing to become more like us?

Maybe they need a good banking crisis.

Via the Cheesiest.